A replica of the Endeavor
AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD/Getty Images

The find ends a centuries-long hunt for the ship just in time for the 250th anniversary of its most famous voyage.

By Marisa Spyker

If there’s one thing the sea is good at, it’s keeping secrets. 

But archaeologists working together from Rhode Island and Australia believe they may have finally solved one of her deepest mysteries—the whereabouts of a legendary ocean exploration vessel that sunk off the U.S. coast more than two centuries ago.

The HMS Endeavor was a British Royal Navy research vessel launched in the 1760s that famously was commissioned to chart the Pacific Ocean under the leadership of Captain James Cook. On this three-year voyage, the ship became the first to reach the east coast of Australia, eventually leading to British colonization of the country. The Endeavor also journeyed to the islands of Tahiti, Huahine, Bora Bora, and Raiatea (hello, dream trip). 

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After the monumental journey, the Endeavor became a British troop carrier in the Revolutionary War. In 1778, the ship was among a fleet of ships sunk off Rhode Island while trying to blockade Newport Harbor from the French. 

Archaeologists from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project have been struggling to pinpoint the exact location of the Endeavor for years. They’d narrowed the potential pool of possible Endeavor matches to five ships, before announcing in September that they believe they may have found the one. 

"Early indications are that the team has narrowed the possible site for the wreck of HMB Endeavour to one site, which is very promising,” said Kevin Sumption, head of the Australian National Maritime Museum. "A lot more detailed work, analysis and research has to happen before we can definitively say we have found the remains of James Cook's HMB Endeavour."

Sumption told The Guardian they plan to conduct a forensic analysis on the timber used to build the ship to help ID it. They hope to have a definitive word by the 250th anniversary of Cook’s claim of Australia for Britain in 2020.