In what could be described as an academic pissing match, the CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum announced that a ship on the bottom of Newport harbor is indeed one of Captain Cook’s famous vessels, but an expert at the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project says his declaration is premature.
Yesterday, Kevin Sumption, Director and CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum, announced: “HMB Endeavour has been found!” But Dr. Kathy Abbass of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, who with her team has spent years trying to positively identify the wreck as the Endeavor, says that Sumption jumped the gun.
In a statement, she said, “The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) report that the Endeavour has been identified is premature. The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) is now and always has been the lead organization for the study in Newport harbor. The ANMM announcement today is a breach of the contract between RIMAP and the ANMM for the conduct of this research and how its results are to be shared with the public.”
She did not stop there. “What we see on the shipwreck site under study is consistent with what might be expected of the Endeavour, but there has been no indisputable data found to prove the site is that iconic vessel, and there are many unanswered questions that could overturn such an identification. Meanwhile, RIMAP recognizes the connection between Australian citizens of British descent and the Endeavour, but RIMAP’s conclusions will be driven by proper scientific process and not Australian emotions or politics.”
Captain Cook commanded four ships during his voyages of discovery. From 1768 to 1771, he used Endeavour to voyage to the South Pacific, primarily to record the transit of Venus in Tahiti in 1769. Endeavor is famous in Australia and New Zealand because she then sailed around the South Pacific searching for “The Great Southern Land,” charting the coast of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia in 1770.
Eventually, Endeavor was sold by the British Navy and renamed Lord Sandwich. During the Revolutionary War she was used as a prison ship and was deliberately sunk by the British Royal Navy in 1778 in an attempt to blockade Newport harbor. Four other vessels were also sunk at the time, complicating the definitive identification of Endeavor.
The ANNM issued an immediate and defiant response."We don't believe we are in breach of contract," an ANNM spokesperson said. "She can have her opinion and we've got ours."
Clearly, this debate is not over.
You can read more about the controversy at the Daily Mail.