A painting by Samuel Atkins, 'HMS Endeavour off the coast of New Holland' (Picture: Wikipedia).
The wreck of the Royal Navy ship used by Captain Cook on his first voyage of discovery to Australia is thought to have been found in a US harbour.
In 1768, with rebellion simmering in Britain’s American colonies, the Royal Navy gave Cook command of HMS Endeavour, also known as HM Bark Endeavour.
The instructions were to turn south and explore the seas around “Terra Australis Incognita” – Latin for the “Unknown Southern Land”.
Between 1769 and 1771, Cook chartered the coast of New Zealand and landed in modern day New South Wales. Ignoring the rights of the indigenous inhabitants, he planted a Union Flag on the vast, dry land and claimed it for the ever-growing British Empire.
British sovereignty secure, Cook turned the bow of ship north and headed home, his mission completed.
Once home, the ship was renamed Lord Sandwich II and converted into a troop carrier for the Royal Navy.
With the American colonies in open revolt, it was dispatched to the New World, where in 1778 it was scuttled in Newport Harbour, Rhode Island, along with 12 other ships.
Despite the ship’s current historical importance – not just to Britain but to America, Australia and New Zealand – the exact location of the ship’s remains was soon forgotten and efforts to find her over the centuries have failed.
Now divers from the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project think they have found the long-lost vessel off the east coast of the US.
Kevin Sumption, head of the Australian National Maritime Museum, told journalists:
"Early indications are that the team has narrowed the possible site for the wreck of HMB Endeavour to one site, which is very promising.
"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."