Back in August, 1768, British Navy Lieutenant James Cook left Plymouth, England, as the captain of HMS Endeavour, a 97’ 8” bark carrying a crew of 94 and 3,321 square yards of sail on a voyage of discovery. Cook, who was also a cartographer, was charged with cruising to the South Pacific to observe Venus crossing the sun and to find the continent then known as Terra Australis Incognita; we now know it simply as Australia.
Cook made landfall in Tahiti in April, 1769, to record the Venus transit, and then went on to map New Zealand; he reached the east coast of Australia the next year (the first European ship to do so), landing on what is now Botany Bay. Unfortunately, he then ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, throwing his guns overboard (Endeavour carried 10 four-pound canons and 12 swivel guns) in an effort to lighten the ship. Damage from the grounding took seven weeks to repair.
Cook then explored more of the South Pacific, sailed west around the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa and finally landed back in Dover on July 12, 1771. He and Endeavour had completed their voyage around the world.
Cook himself returned to the Pacific, where he was killed in the Hawaii Islands in 1779. Endeavour was sold and renamed Lord Sandwich 2, and was used as a private cargo ship until the Royal Navy put it into service during the American Revolution. It carried Hessian troops to New York, and then up to Newport, Rhode Island.
In the summer of 1778, Newport was occupied by the British but it was about to be put in a pincer by the Continental Army advancing on land and a powerful French fleet arriving offshore. The British commander in Newport decided to sink surplus ships at the harbor entrance to deny it to the French. Lord Sandwich 2 was scuttled and sunk on Aug. 4.
In more recent history, scientists and adventurers have been searching for Endeavour’s final resting place. Divers from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project have been searching the waters in Newport for 45 years. Now they think they’ve finally found the remains of the historic ship: just north of Goat Island in Narragansett Bay. Read more: