Was the wreckage of Captain Cook’s ship found in Australia?

Australian researchers claim to have identified the wreckage of James Cook’s ship… and the least we can say is that this does not please their American counterparts.

Yesterday, France Info relayed the discoveries of a group of Australian researchers who claim a striking find; they claim to have found the wreck of the Endeavour, the ship of the legendary Captain James Cook.

This renowned English explorer is a key figure in maritime folklore with a colossal heritage. He is remembered for his memorable expeditions; he notably distinguished himself through three grandiose expeditions in the Pacific Ocean. The man had a particular relationship with Australia and New Zealand. He visited both islands on his first expedition aboard the Endeavor between 1768 and 1771.

He did, however, use other ships for his other voyages; at the end of this epic journey, the proud boat returned to the morose daily life of the merchant navy before sinking into oblivion. It was not until 1775, the beginning of the American Revolution, that we find its trace near Rhode Island; now converted into a troop carrier, she ended up being deliberately scuttled a few years later as part of a blockade of Narragansett Bay.

A coveted symbolic vestige

Despite this information, her wreckage has never been located. Today, some researchers and oceanographers have placed HMS Endeavor at the center of their priorities. Since the end of the 1990s, teams of English and American researchers have been combing the area; they hope to find there this symbolic jewel of the English navy, but also of the American revolution.

And after years of surveying various 18th-century wrecks, Australian National Maritime Museum director Kevin Sumption has announced the identification of the much sought-after wreck. “Based on archival and archeological evidence, I’m confident this is the Endeavor” he said Thursday, February 3.

But that was without taking into account the intervention of their American counterparts, who did not quite hear it that way. Because it’s no secret that the war of independence that shook the country between 1775 and 1783 is an infinitely complex episode of American heritage. This period charged with symbolism stir up passions againand our friends across the Atlantic have the reputation of being very touchy as soon as another nation draws conclusions that directly or (very) far affect the history of the country.

A soap opera that could last

Neither one nor two, the American teams from the Rhode Island Marine Archeology Project (RIMAP), have stepped up to the plate. Seemingly vexed at having been overtaken by another country over this iconic piece of American folklore, the institution immediately dismissed the Australian researchers’ findings and invoked a “breach of contract”.

She split an acerbic press release and even a bit resentful spotted by France Info. Its director DK Abbass considers it to be a hasty and fragile statement from a scientific point of view. “Conclusions will be based on proper scientific process and not on Australian emotions or politics”, she thunders. The message is clear : from the American point of view, the conclusions of the Australian researchers have no valuethe Endeavor has still not been formally identified, and work continues.

The Australian side, on the other hand, sticks to its positions stubbornly. France Info reports the position of the Australian National Maritime Museum, whose spokesperson believes that DK Abbass has “lright to have your own opinion” on the “large amount of evidence” accumulated.

The contractual aspect invoked by the Americans suggests that RIMAP could even take legal action against Australian researchers. It will therefore be very interesting to follow this politico-scientific soap opera to find out if the protagonists will end up finding common ground.

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