RIMAP finds 5th site in the LSexE Study Area !
RIMAP announced on September 29 that it had found a 5th shipwreck site in the area of Newport Harbor where it is now known that the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour had been scuttled in 1778. This site was not where one historical document predicted it would be, but is consistent with a second document that shows the vessels "nested" off the Point shore of Newport. As noted on our Home Page, the sites will be marked with "No Anchor, No Dive" buoys to indicate that there should be no visition to these areas, but fishing, boating, anchoring, and diving elsewhere in the harbor are not restricted. And those who wish to participate in this and other RIMAP activities are welcome to join.
To see the powerpoint presentation, please download the following file.
RIMAP at ComicCon in Providence
Captain Cook and his explorations of the world were the model for Gene Roddenberry when he created the first Star Trek television show in the 1960s. The display at the RIMAP ComicCon booth presented this story to 17,000 attendees. Text of the handout is presented below.
COOK HOOK: The
Two Captains: James Cook and James T. Kirk
A series of
historical snippets about RI maritime
history and Captain Cook © RIMAP 2015
Details from the ComicCon handout:
years ago every school child knew about Capt. James Cook because he explored
more of the world than anyone else in history. When his name was mentioned,
people recognized his importance. Today most younger folks don't know who Cook
was, but they do know about Capt. James T. Kirk and the Star Trek
Cook was the son of a Yorkshire farmer in England. As a Royal Navy officer in
the 18th-century Cook explored the Pacific Ocean three times in the sailing
ships Endeavour and Resolution. The 23rd century Star Trek
TV character, James Kirk, was a farmer's son from Iowa who explored galaxies in
the star ship Enterprise.
captains had international or intergalactic crews on board, as well as science
advisors. Cook sailed with the naturalist Joseph Banks, and Kirk with the
Vulcan Dr. Spock.
used the cutting-edge technology of their times. Kirk had fictional weapons,
replication and communication equipment, and versions of these are now
available 50 years after the show first aired. The historic Cook used newly
reliable time pieces to establish the ship's location by celestial navigation
on his 2nd and 3rd voyages. Although his Harrison's chronometers may seem
simple to modern eyes, they were state-of-the-art in the 18th century.
Cook and Kirk served their governments on missions of exploration and
diplomacy. Both were daring but careful heroes. Kirk's Star Trek line: "To boldly go where no man has
gone before" also comes directly from Cook's journal, where he wrote that
he had travelled "further than any man had ever been before."
the name Lord Sandwich, the Endeavour was one of a fleet of British
transports sunk in 1778 in Newport
Harbor, RI, in the days leading up to the Battle of Rhode Island in the
American Revolution. RIMAP may find Capt. Cook's Endeavour in Newport but we won't find Capt. Kirk's Enterprise!
Some details from the posters:
Captain Cook is pointing to his chart and Captain Kirk is pointing to his navigation system, too.
The Endeavour was Cook's sailing ship in which he explored the oceans, and the Enterprise was the star ship in which Kirk explored the galaxies.
Joseph Banks was the naturalist on board Cook's Endeavour, and Mr. Spock was the science officer on board Kirk's Enterprise.
Both captains met fierce peoples. Cook met the Maoris of New Zealand, and Klingons became allies in later versions of Star Trek.
And the Star Trek opening
boldly go where no man has gone before"
Cook's journal where he said he sailed
than any man had ever been before."
The Pre-Disturbance Site Maps
The pre-disturbance maps of eight possible 18th-century British transport sites in Newport Harbor is posted here. In 2015 we mapped the ninth site and in 2016 we found number 10, so this poster will be edited in the future to accommodate that new data.
© RIMAP 2014
The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project has studied the largest fleet of Revolutionary War shipwrecks found anywhere in the world, including three Royal Navy frigates sunk along the west coast of Aquidneck Island and eight British transports sunk in Newport Harbor. RIMAP's ongoing studies feature the search for five more transports, two more Royal Navy frigates, at least four small armed Royal Navy vessels, a number of Continental Navy vessels and Rhode Island privateers, many local small craft, and perhaps one French ship.
There are some special issues for the British transport study, and especially the possibility that we might find the Lord Sandwich (Cook's Endeavour) in Newport Harbor. These include:
- It will take many years more to complete the research process for the British transport study.
- As we pursue this careful research, there is no guarantee that we will ever find the Endeavour;
- Even if we think we have the Endeavour, we may not be able to prove it; and
- We are responsible for the long-term management of the transport fleet even if we don't find that one vessel.
- That means we must (a) create a proper facility for storage (in perpetuity) of artifacts, samples, and structures, (b) provide continuing access to the artifacts, samples, and structures for future research, and (c) develop a means by which their stories may be shared with the public.
- The RIMAP budgets for fieldwork and post-processing activities are limited, but with even with more resources, some of the required tasks cannot be hurried. Part of the need is for a facility to study and manage the artifacts, samples, and structures that this research will generate, and a means to share the results of this work with the public.
- Therefore, at the same time that RIMAP conducts its fieldwork, we have also been in a long-term planning process to create the required facility.
- RIMAP's plan is to create that facility at Butt's Hill Fort in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. This is the largest Revolutionary War earthwork in southern New England, it was the center of the American line in the August 29-30, 1778, Battle of Rhode Island, and the transport fleet was scuttled in preparation for that battle. For all those reasons, Butts Hill Fort is an appropriate location for our facility.
- With a US National Park Service grant, RIMAP and NewPortArchitecture created a preliminary plan to have our facility at Butts Hill Fort.
- There is renewed interest from the Australian National Maritime Museum in RIMAP's transport studies because that country considers the Endeavour to be their founding vessel, and they want to be part of the RIMAP team that finds her. Therefore, the ANMM may be an important partner in the development of RIMAP's long-term plans to share Rhode Island's exciting maritime history with the whole world.
Although we are proud of our progress in the study of the transport fleet as a whole, RIMAP can't promise success in finding the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour, and there is a great deal more work to do before we can complete the realted fieldwork and post-processing activities in a professionally appropriate manner.
On the other hand, good science is all about starting out with an idea and following it through with the hope that it will produce the desired results.
For detailed information, please see below and the other essays on this website, and if you would like to help, contact us at: email@example.com
CAPTAIN JAMES COOK'S MEN AND SHIPS IN 18th-CENTURY RHODE ISLAND: An Introduction
RIMAP volunteers have mapped 9 shipwreck sites in Newport Harbor using the same technology and to the same scale for easy comparison, and have found number 10. If the sites are all from the 18th Century, and if they are all part of the fleet of 13 transports sunk in 1778 during the French threat to the British who occupied Rhode Island during the American Revolution, and since we know that Captain Cook's Endeavour Bark was in that fleet, then we have a better than even chance that this iconic vessel is among the sites that RIMAP has already mapped. This work is summarized in the paper delivered at the January 2014 meetings of the Society for Historical Archaeology in Quebec, as shown on this page.
Thanks to RIMAP's volunteers who made the work possible this year: D.K. (Kathy) Abbass, Ph.D. (RIMAP Principal Investigator), Kerry Lynch, Ph.D. (RIMAP Field Supervisor), Capt. Greg DeAscentis (Research Vessel Owner/Operator from Aquidneck Mooring and Volunteer RIMAP Diver), Joe Zarzynski, M.A. (Professional archaeologist and RIMAP Volunteer Diver), William Burns, M.A. (Professional archaeologist and RIMAP Volunteer Diver), John Hoagland (RIMAP Dive Safety Officer and RIMAP Volunteer Diver), Steve Bastien I (RIMAP Volunteer Diver), Mark Wegiel (New RIMAP Volunteer Diver), and Grayson DeAscentis (Research Vessel Mascot). Now we turn to cleaning and storing gear, setting up our winter training cycle and public presentations, and planning for the 2014 season.
We still can't say we have "found" the Endeavour because the pre-disturbance site maps have identified nothing diagnostic to identify which ship is which. It will take excavation and the ability to manage the artifacts that will emerge from that excavation (which means having a lab as noted elsewhere in the website) before we can conclusively announce that we have the Endeavour. Meanwhile, there are a number of more subtle targets in Newport Harbor that will need attention before we can with confidence say we have found all of the transports lost there in 1778.
Those interested mainly in Captain Cook and the discovery of only one vessel may be disappointed in the slowness of this work, but the study of the largest fleet of transports from the American Revolution (and with RIMAP's study of the Royal Navy ships lost in Rhode Island, the largest Revolutionary War fleet found anywhere in the world) is important in its own right -- even if we never can say which one might be the Endeavour.
Because this work is ongoing and because we are open to the public, you can join us, support us, and share the thrill of knowing that your efforts have helped. NOW is the time to get involved!
The Endeavour and the Transit of Venus
Captain James Cook was a Royal Navy officer who explored and mapped more of the world than any other person in history. Although Cook was never here, Rhode Island has seen five of the ships associated with him, and the four that were lost here may eventually be found. Many RIMAP publications give detailsof these stories, but the following gives an introduction to Cook's ships that found their way to Rhode Island in the 18th century.
James Cook was born in Yorkshire, England, where he apprenticed in the merchant marine at Whitby, sailing colliers throughout the North Sea and into the Baltic. He then joined the Royal Navy and was sent to North America, where he learned to make charts of local waters around Nova Scotia and in the St. Lawrence. But Cook was never as far south as Rhode Island.
In the 1760s the Royal Society in Britain (a group of early scientists) organized world-wide efforts to determine the distance from the sun to the earth by simple geometry using data collected by observing the Transit of Venus as the planet crossed the face of the sun. The 1761 event in Europe and North America was not successful, so the Society decided to add a measurement from Tahiti in 1769.
The Royal Navy agreed to provide a vessel for the voyage to the South Pacific to carry Joseph Banks and his group of scientists with all their equipment.
The Navy considered the frigate ROSE and sloop of war TRYAL, but these ships were not big enough to carry the special passengers, as well as the ship's crew and provisions for such a long voyage.
Then the Navy bought a roomy, Whitby-built collier and named her ENDEAVOUR.
Venus crossing the sun
Cook was selected to lead the expedition to Tahiti in the South Pacific in the ENDEAVOUR Bark, partly because he had originally trained in similar vessels, but also because he was a good navigator and map-maker. These were skills that would be important in exploring new regions.
The first voyage lasted from 1768-1771, and then the ENDEAVOUR was used to carry supplies for the Navy. She was later sold to a private individual who changed her name to LORD SANDWICH and then chartered her to the British transport service to carry the Hessian troops that had been hired to serve with the British during the American Revolution.
Captain James Cook The tracks of Cook's three voyages (dotted line shows return of Resolution after his death)
Cook sailed on his second vayoge in the RESOLUTION with the ADVENTURE (1772-1775), and on his third voyage he sailed again in the RESOLUTION, but this time with the DISCOVERY (1776-1780). These ships were also all Whitby-built colliers. The second voyage confirmed that there was no land mass in the South Pacific that previously had been thought necessary to balance the large land masses in the northern hemisphere. The commander of the ADVENTURE was later posted to Rhode Island during the Revolution. Cook's third voyage explored into the North Pacific and the Bering Sea. Cook was killed at Hawaii and the ships returned without him. The RESOLUTION was later sold to the French and became a whaler, and her name was changed to LA LIBERTE. Cook-associated ships in Rhode Island
What became of the ADVENTURE and DISCOVERY is not a Rhode Island story, but Cook's other ships have a direct relationship to Rhode Island history. After losing the chance to sail with Cook, and prior to the formal outbreak of the American Revolution, the ROSE was sent to Rhode Island where she interrupted trade and bombed local communities. The ROSE was not lost in Rhode Island, but during the war a Royal Navy vessel named the TRYAL was run aground and burned at the north end of Prudence Island. The LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR was in the fleet that carried the British and Hessian troops to occupy Rhode Island in 1776. This vessel was used as a prison ship and was part of the fleet of thirteen transports sunk in Newport Harbor to protect the British from the threatening French fleet.
The unlucky commander of the ADVENTURE who was sent to Rhode Island ran the frigate SYREN aground at Point Judith where the Americans captured him and his crew. After the Revolution, LA LIBERTE ex RESOLUTION came to Newport in 1793 carrying a load of whale oil for local businessmen, but was badly damaged and abandoned along the shore, Pieces of her timbers were collected later and in 1828 they were mis-identified as coming from the ENDEAVOUR, confusing the history of Cook's ships for nearly 200 years.
Other sections of this website give the details of RIMAP's work, but at this writing (May 2013), we have mapped eight potential transport sites in Newport Harbor (one of which may be the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR), and we have located a potential TRYAL site at the north end of Prudence Island. To find the RESOLUTION and SYREN will take archaeological resources not yet at hand, but meanwhile we conduct historical research about these exciting stories, and we share them with an eager public. For information about the legal protections placed on the transport shipwrecks in Newport Harbor, please see the special essay below.
RIMAP's search for and identification of Captain Cook's ENDEAVOUR Bark © RIMAP 2013
The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) research has determined that more than 200 vessels were lost in our state during the American Revolution. This includes Royal Navy ships and the privately-owned vessels chartered to the British, the Rhode Island Navy and later the Continental Navy, as well as privateers and other locally owned commercial vessels. By far the most glamorous of RIMAP's research to find these vessels has been our work to locate and identify the 13 British transports sunk in Newport Harbour on August 5-9, 1778.
The British, who controlled Narragansett Bay at the time, scuttled these ships to protect the city from the threatening French fleet. The study of the transports is worthy in its own right because little is known about this class of ship used in the Revolution. But RIMAP's work has gathered international attention because the LORD SANDWICH transport, which was among the 13 ships sunk in Newport, had been the ENDEAVOUR Bark that carried Captain James Cook on his first circumnavigation of the world.
RIMAP's research process to find the ENDEAVOUR begins with the effort to find all of the transports that still exist, to study each site in turn, and to determine how closely each fits the descriptions of what is known about all the transports. RIMAP begins with the assumption that, because of the ship's later uses in the Royal Navy and in Rhode Island, little will have survived in the archaeological record that is directly associated with James Cook and his voyage. Also, a single feature is unlikely to be adequate for a positive identification. However, if the artifact assemblage and samples from a specific Newport site are consistent with the ship having been the LORD SANDWICH transport, and if that ship's construction details are consistent with it having been the ENDEAVOUR BARK, and if no other site in the Newport transport fleet can make that claim, then we can confidently announce that we have found that one historic ship.
As of this writing in 2013, RIMAP teams have mapped eight potential transport sites, making a 62% chance that the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR is among them. See the Endeavour FAQs below that describe the details of the research design that RIMAP has developed to guide this research.
Modern Sketch of Endeavour Modern Replica of Endeavour Modern Cutaway Drawing of Endeavour
Frequently asked questions about the search for the ENDEAVOUR Bark © RIMAP 2013
The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) is engaged in a multi-year process to locate and identify the 13 British transports sunk in Newport Harbour on August 5-9, 1778. The British, who controlled Narragansett Bay at the time, scuttled these ships to create a blockade to protect the city from the threatening French fleet. The study of the transports is worthy in its own right, but the LORD SANDWICH transport, which was among the 13 sunken ships, had been the ENDEAVOUR Bark that carried Captain James Cook on his first circumnavigation of the world. The chance that RIMAP may find the ENDEAVOUR has generated a great deal of international interest in our work.
The following is a brief description of how RIMAP is approaching the study of the transport fleet, how we hope to find them all and then determine which transport is which, and how we hope to identify the ENDEAVOUR.
THE GENERAL RESEARCH DESIGN
The first task is to find all of the transports that still exist. Historic maps and narrative descriptions give a good idea of where in Newport Harbour the transports were most likely sunk. However, in the 225+ years since then, the area has been dredged and anchorages and mooring fields created. Therefore, it is not probable that all of the transports have survived.
The 1778-9 Fage chart (British) showing where the A French chart of 1780-81 showing where ships should be The modern navigation chart of Newport showing
transports were sunk when the French threatened. positioned to control the entrance to Newport Harbor. Note RIMAP's exclusive study area. This is congruent with
the faint oval in the middle showing the transports. where the ships are located on the historic charts.
Finding the transports that still exist is labor intense and expensive. All that remains today of a Revolutionary War period ship in Rhode Island waters is a pile of ballast stone that stands slightly proud of the bottom, and that protects the wooden structure beneath. Sometimes bits of wood and inorganic artifacts that have survived the centuries lie on the surface of the pile. It is also likely that local dredging and anchoring have disturbed and scattered some piles to such an extent that they are now hard to recognize, and some may have been completely destroyed. Remote sensing gear can generate information about anomalies on the bottom of the harbour (called targets), but the harbour is littered with geology and modern debris that resemble the ballast piles and their related debris fields. That means that the anomalies/targets must be investigated by SCUBA divers trained to recognize the difference.
Over the past twenty-one years RIMAP has done a number of remote sensing surveys of Newport Harbour, including the use of side scan sonar, sub-bottom profiler, and magnetometer. This work generated a number of targets for investigation. The first effort was in 1993, with donated Klein side scan equipment, navigation systems from SAIC, and volunteer operator Joseph W. Zarzynski. The second work was done in 1995 by Vince Capone, then of Marine Search and Survey, and funded by a grant from the National Maritime Heritage Program. When funds allowed, RIMAP divers later returned to ground-truth these targets and before 2005 we had found and mapped only two 18th-century sites, but lots of modern debris and natural rock formations. Unfortunately, the navigation controls for this early remote sensing work were LORAN and early GPS systems, which made it difficult to return later to selected targets.
The 1993 side scan sonar lanes showing the research A simple sketch of target locations from The LORAN grid showing targets
vessel track. the 1993 side scan sonar investigation. from the 1995 side scan sonar work.
Note that this sketch is not to the same This chart is oriented differently, but
scale as the chart to the left, but that there is still a clear line of targets
there is a clear line of targets (later generated by this effort.
Three graphics published in RIMAP reports confirmed to be 18th-century ballast piles).
In the late 1990s RIMAP wrote the "Naval History and Submerged Cultural Resources of Rhode Island" for the Naval History Center in Washington, DC (published in 2000). The DOD Legacy grant that supported this work allowed RIMAP to do the preliminary historical research into the transport fleet, and that research was the key to recognizing the possibility that the transport LORD SANDWICH might have been the ENDEAVOUR. Further research funded by RIMAP confirmed this hypothesis and generated the need to take a closer look at what might remain in Newport Harbor.
In the summer of 2005 a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) allowed RIMAP to repeat the remote sensing of the harbor, using improved navigation equipment and side scan sonar equipment with more sensitive resolution. This was provided by Rhode Island Sea Grant and operated by URI Professor I. R. Mather. This NOAA-sponsored effort generated eight targets in a limited area of Newport Harbour that RIMAP divers ground-truthed. One target was a huge anchor that is apparently from the late 19th or early 20th century, three targets appeared to be 18th century ship sites in the area that our earlier work showed them to be, and the rest were debris or geology. And just to remind us that modern technology isn't infallible, one of the divers got off his line and swam over another site that the sonar had not picked up. That suggests there may be more such subtle sites to be found.
With another NOAA grant in 2007 RIMAP continued this remote sensing and preliminary survey work. This time the improved navigation equipment and increasingly sensitive side scan sonar equipment was provided by Klein's Garry Kozak. This technology integrated the navigation and sonar data to create site maps in real time. Present for this work were not only a number of RIMAP staff and volunteers, but also two staff members of the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney. Ground-truthing confirmed that the targets were what appeared to be 18th-century ballast piles, modern debris and local geology, but in addition we found two torpedoes. The Navy's Explosive Ordnance Demolition Team later determined that these were inert derelicts, probably lost in tests by the former Torpedo Station, located on Goat Island.
The 2005 target locations, data by Mather, graphic The 2007 target locations, data and graphic by Kozak. This equipment
by Curran. This shows the same line of targets as showed not only locations, but gave relative size and shape of targets.
earlier efforts, but with better navigational control Also sites west of Goat Island, consistent with the 18th-century charts.
NOTE: These charts are not to be used by anyone to locate and visit the sites. They are under federal protection and RIMAP has exclusive access rights for archaeological research. However, those interested in participating in RIMAP activities are welcome to join us, take our training, and volunteer.
Since 2007 RIMAP has continued the preliminary mapping of these 18th-century sites in Newport Harbour. In 2013, we will complete the eighth site using the same technique and the same scale as the other seven that are now complete. If these are all transports, then we have now found more than half of that fleet. This increases the chances that the ENDEAVOUR may still be in Newport and may already be among the sites already mapped. Despite this exciting news, there are some caveats about our work, as discussed below.
The second task of RIMAP's transport study is to determine which transport site is which. In 1999 RIMAP created a preliminary research design to guide that part of the work, with suggestions from a number of prominent underwater archaeologists with expertise in 18th-century vessels. It included the background histories of all the ships, plus an interpretation of previous marine activities in the area that might have disturbed sites. The research design has been updated and improved as new information has come to light, and it can be organized into a matrix of questions to ask each site that we find. We also have assembled information specific to the ENDEAVOUR that may help to identify that particular vessel.
The research matrix of transports. RIMAP has also published details of what is known about each ship prior to its coming to Rhode Island.
Modern Newport Harbor The locations shown in this contemporary drawing of the French fleet entering Newport
are consistent with the presumed transport sites discovered by RIMAP's investigations.
Special note: What those who only want us to find the ENDEAVOUR consistently overlook is that the key to finding her will be the very subtle, expensive, labor intensive, (and important in its own right) study of all the transports. Unfortunately, identifying the different ships (and perhaps finding that one of greatest renown) will include the disturbance of many, perhaps all, of the sites as well as the removal of artifacts and samples. Whether or not the ENDEAVOUR is found, and whether or not RIMAP can prove it, the responsibility and expense of managing the collections from the whole fleet will remain. Therefore, those interested only in finding the ENDEAVOUR should recognize that the study of all the transports is the means by which to find that one ship, that it will be a long and expensive process, and that there will be no guarantee of success.
With that caveat, RIMAP has created a research design to address the questions of the general size of each vessel, where she was built, what troops she carried, whether or not she was burned when scuttled in Newport, and where she had travelled before coming to Rhode Island, including whether or not she may have been to the South Pacific. No single feature or condition will be diagnostic for the identification of any one transport because many of the ships were similar in their construction and use. Therefore, we expect that it will be certain combinations of features and conditions that may allow us to identify the ship sites, or at least to eliminate them from the possibility of being a particular ship such as the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR
The Endeavour at sea with Cook -- but what did she look like when she was sunk in Newport Harbor in 1778?
For instance, of the thirteen transports lost in 1778, there were four in the 300+ ton range (like the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR), at least three of them were built at Whitby in Yorkshire, England or within a hundred miles of there (where the ENDEAVOUR was built), and we don’t yet know the origin of four others. The GRAND DUKE OF RUSSIA, the largest of all the transports, had been an East Indiaman, which means she had probably been to the Indian Ocean, and possibly as far as east Asia and the South Pacific, like the ENDEAVOUR. In addition, one of the Royal Navy Galleys, the ALARM, had been an East Indiaman before being taken into service and refitted. Although she was lost in the Sakonnet, her presence on the Rhode Island station adds some confusion about interpreting samples that might indicate a ship that had travelled that far.
At least ten of the transports lost in Rhode Island were owned/brokered by John Wilkinson, the largest transport manager in the Revolution and a major player in the collier trade from the Yorkshire area. That means that there is a very good chance that many of Wilkinson’s ships may have had pre-transport histories similar to that of the ENDEAVOUR. However, the ENDEAVOUR came to Newport as the LORD SANDWICH transport many years after Cook left her, and the LORD SANDWICH had her own unique history in Rhode Island, such as the use as a prison ship with prominent local Patriot prisoners on board. RIMAP's approach is also to identify the LORD SANDWICH from those later uses. Therefore, if we find a transport consistent with what is expected to be found on the ENDEAVOUR, and if that transport is also consistent with what is expected to be found on the LORD SANDWICH, and if no other 18th-century site in Newport Harbor is also consistent, then RIMAP can claim with some certainty that we have found and identified one of the most important ships in maritime history.
In addition, we don’t know how the ENDEAVOUR was changed when she carried goods to the Falklands after Cook left her but before she left the Royal Navy’s service, and we don’t know how Wilkonson repaired her to carry troops as a privately owned transport after the Navy sold her to him. Although we have good information about the adaptations that had been installed to accommodate Cook and the men who went with him in the ENDEAVOUR, we can’t predict how many of those adaptations remained by the time she came to Rhode Island. That is why we need to look at ALL of the transports that still exist in Newport Harbour before we select any for detailed study. Only that way can we identify which any one of them might be, and only then can we say for sure which one is the ENDEAVOUR.
For instance, if a site is too small (as possibly is RI 2125, the first site we studied), it may be fairly easy to determine that it is not the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR, and that it is probably one of the smaller transports. The second site we looked at (RI 2119) appears to be in the right size range, but we have not yet had the funds to complete the intense work that would reveal other matches to indicate that she might be the ENDEAVOUR. This is particularly important, because unless we find a diagnostic artifact, a single bit of data (such as general size) will not be enough proof to say we have a particular ship, especially because multiple vessels shared those conditions. If we find, however, that there is a constellation of features and conditions consistent with a specific ship like the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR (and especially that none of the other ships in the fleet exhibit that same constellation), then we may be more confident in the identification.
The potential that we will find a diagnostic artifact associated with the ENDEAVOUR has further problems. We have made a secondary assumption that, given her later uses, it is not likely much will be left of the ENDEAVOUR (except possibly her basic structure) to associate any site with Cook and his circumnavigation. However, we know something of how the LORD SANDWICH was used as a transport and prison ship in Newport and hope to find features, artifacts, and conditions that will allow us to identify this specific ship. If we can prove that we have identified the LORD SANDWICH, then we will also have proved that we have the ENDEAVOUR because we know that they were the same vessel.
The best of all possible worlds will be to find details consistent with what is known of ENDEAVOUR's construction and Cook's circumnavigation and also consistent with what is known of the LORD SANDWICH and her time in North America, and that none of the other transport sites share those details. The transport fleet deserves careful study because of its own significance, but the historic importance of the ENDEAVOUR adds to the need for caution as we proceed. Therefore the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project will continue to be conservative in its approach to fieldwork and interpretation of data.
QUESTIONS COMMONLY ASKED ABOUT RIMAP'S STUDY OF THE TRANSPORT FLEET
AND THE SEARCH FOR THE ENDEAVOUR © RIMAP 2014
The research design asks a number of questions that can be answered by historical documents and field studies of the shipwrecks in Newport Harbor. It is important to understand that this process may take many more years to complete, and in the end we may not be able to answer all questions with confidence.
The following is a sample of the kinds of questions RIMAP addresses.
A Questions About The Transport Fleet
This section describes how RIMAP is going about sorting out the different transports that still exist in Newport Harbor, without reference to which one might be the ENDEAVOUR. The first task is to find them all.
QUESTION 1: How many transports were there?
ANSWER: We know the names of 13 transports that were sunk during the Siege of Newport in 1778 and that there were other British transports in Newport at the time that were not sunk.
CAUTION: We have a list of 10 ships from one broker (John Wilkinson) who later asked the British government to reimburse him for their loss, and other data added 3 names of ships lost at the same time, to total 13. One historic chart shows generally where 13 transports were sunk. We are working on the assumption that 13 is the correct number, although there may have been more ships sunk that we don't yet know about.
Torpedoes built at Goat Island, Newport and tested in Newport Harbor
QUESTION 2: Will RIMAP be able to find all 13 (or more) transports?
ANSWER: Given the history of Newport Harbour, it is not likely that all of the transports have survived the past 235+ years.
CAUTION 1: We know that parts of Newport Harbour have been dredged, apparently in the area where some of the transports are thought to have been. Newport Harbour has always been an active anchorage for ships (including parts that are now mooring fields), which could have disturbed or destroyed sites. Also, for many years in the early 20th century, the US Navy sponsored a diver training program and we now know that they found and destroyed a number of historic vessels in the harbor. All of these activities make it unlikely that all of the transport fleet vessels still exists. However, RIMAP has found more than half of the 13 ships, and we plan to continue the search.
CAUTION 2: As noted elsewhere, the Navy's torpedo manufacturing activities on Goat Island have contributed to the potentially dangerous ordnance commonly found in local waters, including where there also transports. This could be a safety issue for RIMAP teams conducting local fieldwork.
QUESTION 3: How many transports has RIMAP studied?
ANSWER: RIMAP's preliminary study of RI 2125 found that it may be one of the smaller transports, although more complete excavation is suggested to confirm that assumption. Our study of the second site, RI 2119, indicates that it might be in the right size range to be the ENDEAVOUR, but it also deserves more complete excavation before confirmation. This early work was done by RIMAP volunteers, including three staff members of the Australian National Maritime Museum. Since then RIMAP has completed pre-disturbance site maps of six more potential 18th-century sites, all of which appear to be of varying sizes.
CAUTION: We have a number of years of work yet to do before we can with certainty say we have located all of the transports that still exist.
QUESTION 4: Are there other vessels lost in Newport that could confuse the study of the transports?
ANSWER: There were certainly other vessels sunk in Newport in the 18th century, some of which played a part in the American Revolution.
CAUTION: We must not confuse sites that might be other vessels from the same period with sites that might be the transports.
QUESTION 5: How can we determine if a particular vessel is from the proper period?
ANSWER: The date of a shipwreck site can be determined by its condition, its associated artifacts, and the ship's construction details. After more than 200 years, the exposed portions of a wooden ship and its organic artifacts have deteriorated and disappeared in Rhode Island's salt water environment. What is left behind is a pile of ballast stone that sometimes stands proud from the bottom. Those stones and the silt that cover the site create an anaerobic environment (no oxygen), so the wooden structure and organic artifacts beneath are protected as long as the silt is not disturbed. Ships that have been lost for only 100 years have not deteriorated to the same extent.
CAUTION: Some ship construction methods have been very conservative, and are even found in today's shipyards. The dates of artifacts found on a site will indicate the latest date at which the ship might have been lost, but the portable artifacts on the surface of many sites have long since been scavenged by diving collectors. The loss of these artifacts may mean we might not have particularly important data for our study.
QUESTION 6: Is there historical information about each ship that will be helpful to sort out the transport sites?
ANSWER: Yes. For instance, we know which troops were carried on board many of the transports (British, American, and Hessians). If we find artifacts related to a specific regiment on a shipwreck site, then we can suggest that ship's identity. RIMAP's Director (D. K. Abbass) has completed a study of the preliminary histories of the ships for the National Park Service (copies available from RIMAP).
CAUTION: One artifact relating to a regiment can only suggest which ship is which, since that artifact could be from a visitor, or be stolen or strayed. A more confirming situation would come from a collection of artifacts that all point to the same troops on board. We will continue our research to try to complete each ship's historical profile, but as long as we are missing troop data for some of the transports, we will be careful not overlook the possibility that multiple transports may share features that we think might be diagnostic.
Artifacts from potential Newport Harbor transport sites - Clockwise from upper right: ceramic teapot, iron concretion around a length of line, glass bottle, lead collar
Please note: It is illegal to remove artifacts without a permit from the RI Historical Preservation Commission.
QUESTION 7: What do we see when we look at a transport site?
ANSWER: The remains of Rhode Island Revolutionary War shipwrecks are typically limited to the following materials:
Above the ballast stones we find inorganic artifacts and structure that fall onto the ballast as the wooden ship disintegrates.
Below the ballast we find our greatest potential to study the ship. As the vessel deteriorates, the portion beneath the ballast is protected by those stones. As the site becomes covered with silt, the silt not only helps to prevent erosion of the site, but it also reduces the presence of oxygen. Without oxygen, the site will eventually reach equilibrium and the organic artifacts and structures embedded in the silt and ballast will not deteriorate further. After more than 200 years Rhode Island's Revolutionary War shipwrecks have reached equilibrium, and the silt and ballast are protecting the historic remains beneath. As long as the silt is not disturbed and the equilibrium is maintained, the site should remain intact indefinitely.
CAUTION: We hope to find structural features or artifacts that will prove the identity of a particular ship. It is a matter of chance that these have survived the natural degradation process as the shipwreck reaches equilibrium.
NOTE: Digging through an underwater site disturbs the site's equilibrium by re-introducing oxygen and re-starting the degradation process; this process will continue until the site reaches a new equilibrium. Underwater archaeologists recognize that excavating a site, even under the most controlled of scientific conditions, will also disturb that site's equilibrium. Therefore we do not excavate unless there is a good reason to do so. That is also why other divers who dig to collect artifacts are doing more damage to the site than just removing potentially diagnostic materials.
Modern lines of the ENDEAVOUR
QUESTION 8: Is there information about ship construction that would be helpful to sort out the transport sites?
ANSWER: We know where many of the vessels were built (in England and in North America, possibly Germany or Holland), but not all of them.
CAUTION 1: Construction techniques apparently were not be very different between America and Britain during colonial times because the American colonies were essentially British, but there may be some differences in the materials used. A study of all the transports in Rhode Island might provide a database to investigate these differences.
CAUTION 2: Because the Royal Navy made meticulous drawings of the ENDEAVOUR before her voyage, we know more about her than any of the other commercial vessels of the late 18th century. This was enough information for modern marine architects to create designs for replicas (image to right), and for untold numbers of model makers to build their own personal ENDEAVOURs. A study of all the transports in Rhode Island might provide a database to investigate further the construction details that might be consistent in all the vessels, as well as regional variations.
QUESTION 9: Were all the transports the same size?
ANSWER: We know the tonnage of most of the 13 transports. Tonnage is a measurement of the ship's interior volume for carrying cargo, and it was determined in the 18th century by a complex equation using a set of the ship's measurements. See the Research Matrix, above, for information about the transport's tonnages.
CAUTION: Of the transports that we know about, four were in the 300 ton range, one was much larger and all the rest were smaller. We have detailed measurements only for the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR because they were taken before Cook went around the world. Further archival study may generate more details about the rest of the transports.
QUESTION 10: Is the ballast left behind on a shipwreck site diagnostic of American and British vessels?
ANSWER: RIMAP has been sampling the ballast on the transport sites, including bits of coal. So far, the analysis is inconclusive.
CAUTION: Ships frequently dumped and took on ballast, from wherever they needed to do so. It is possible that an American vessel could have picked up British ballast from where it had been previously dumped by another ship. We also know that British ships carried coal from London, and that they frequently picked up more ballast in North America.
B Specific Questions Relating to the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR
This section describes how RIMAP hopes to identify the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR from among all the transports that still exist in Newport harbour. The first task is to assemble information about the ENDEAVOUR, how she was built, repaired, and used on her journey around the world with Capt. James Cook. Then we need to look at information about how the LORD SANDWICH transport was repaired and then used on her station in North America.
QUESTION 1: What is known about how the ENDEAVOUR was built?
ANSWER: As the ENDEAVOUR was taken out of the collier service into the Royal Navy, she was surveyed and her lines were taken, including her keel length. There are also contemporary sketches of what she looked like. There was enough information in the historic documents for a replica of the ENDEAVOUR to be built in the 1990s.
CAUTION: Some marine architects disagree about some construction details.
QUESTION 2: Is there a simple measurement that is a good place to start?
ANSWER: The length of a ship's keel is generally related to her overall size, and we know ENDEAVOUR's keel length. If a Newport transport's keel is shorter or longer than that measurement, then we can eliminate her from consideration as the ENDEAVOUR. We also know that there were at least three other vessels in the 300-ton range, similar to the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR. If we find a vessel of the right size, then it has a one-in-four chance to be this specific ship.
CAUTION: The overall length of the keel may be difficult to determine without a full excavation of a site because we presume that there has been some erosion at the ends, and this erosion may give an inaccurate interpretation of the vessel's length.
Royal Navy Ship Rates
QUESTION 3: How do the transports under study measure up?
ANSWER: The first transport that RIMAP studied (RI 2125) was apparently too short to match the expected keel length of the ENDEAVOUR, although that assumption should be tested further. The second site (RI 2119) appears to have a keel length that appears to be in the right size range. We have completed only the preliminary, non-disturbance site maps of the other six sites. In the absence of more extensive excavations, we do not have enough data to confirm the lengths of the first two sites, and the maps of the others give only general dimensions of what can be seen above the silt..
CAUTION 1: Although RI 2119 appears to be promising, we do not yet understand all of what we see in her keel construction, and we have conducted only a minimal disturbance survey to find the ends of her structure. It is also possible that RI 2125 is thought to be too short because the ends of her keel have been eroded, and that she was longer than we think. Only detailed excavation and comparison of the sites in Newport Harbour can potentially provide the data to sort them out.
CAUTION 2: Most of the transports were smaller vessels than the naval ships of the period. The chart (right) gives a summary of the various "rates" of the Royal Navy, and although there was some variation among ships of the same rate, it is clear that the transports were generally similar to, or smaller than, the smallest rated British vessels. The Royal Navy frigates serving and lost in Rhode Island were 5th and 6th rates, there were also a number of smaller Royal Navy "armed" vessels serving and lost here, and all of the lost Continental Navy ships and local privateers were small. However, ships have been described as the most complex of man's inventions, and even ships with a keel length of about 100 feet can be a challenge to document and understand.
QUESTION 4: What about the wood used to build the transports?
ANSWER: RIMAP has taken wood samples of some of the timbers for identification on both RI 2119 and RI 2125. Most of the timbers have been oak.
CAUTION: It is difficult to distinguish between oak grown in North America from that grown in Britain. The presence of other woods in the major timbers (such as an elm keel) may be suggestive that we have the ENDEAVOUR, but is diagnostic only if there had been only one ship in the fleet with an elm keel. An investigation of all the Newport transports should determine what woods were used in each.
NOTE: The assumption that a keel could not be replaced in the 18th century is not accurate. Also it is unknown if any local repairs were made to the transports by local shipwrights using local materials. Further archival research may reveal such details.
QUESTION 5: Are there other construction details that will allow us to identify the ENDEAVOUR Bark?
ANSWER: Again, the original survey of the vessel before Cook joined her gives a great deal of information about how that particular ship was built when she was taken into the Royal Navy. Therefore, we will look for detailed timber measurements that might be consistent with those of the original survey and lines.
CAUTION: Even if we find a transport in Newport harbour with features and construction details consistent with what we know about the ENDEAVOUR, we don't know how typical the construction of the ENDEAVOUR was for her time and use. She was built as a collier in Whitby (Yorkshire) by a very active shipyard and she was managed by John Wilkinson, a broker who was responsible for a great number of ships, including other colliers that he chartered to British government for use as transports. It is possible that at least one more of the ships lost in Newport about which we have little information could also be a Wilkinson collier built at Whitby, and we don't know how different the construction technique might be at a village near to Whitby, like Scarborough. It will be very important to determine if more than one ship in the Newport fleet shows the same features and to know how typical the ENDEAVOUR's construction was before we can use that as the main argument for having found the vessel.
Joseph Banks with collected artifacts
QUESTION 6: The ENDEAVOUR was adapted in preparation for her trip around the world with Capt. Cook. Could evidence of those adaptations be diagnostic to suggest that we have found the ENDEAVOUR?
ANSWER: These later adaptations may be more useful as a diagnostic tool than her original construction features as a collier. The ENDEAVOUR had some interesting changes made to accommodate the crew on such a long journey, some of which were requested by the aristocratic supercargo, Joseph Banks. Banks was a wealthy young man with an interest in natural science. He funded the scientific portion of the voyage, including his staff of scientists, artists, servants, dogs, and equipment. It is interesting to note that Banks also planned to accompany Cook on the second voyage. Unfortunately, he required changes to the RESOLUTION that made the ship such a bad sailer that Cook ordered them removed, and Banks went off on an expedition to Iceland, instead. This story tells us that it was quite common for a ship to incur major changes to accommodate a current purpose, and with later changes in that purpose, the ship was changed again. That may be a source of confusion in what archaeologists see later in that ship's remains.
CAUTION: The changes to the ENDEAVOUR may have been obliterated by later uses of the vessel, but we will be vigilant to find subtle evidence of them.
QUESTION 7: Could the repairs made after the ENDEAVOUR was damaged on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia be used to identify a specific Newport shipwreck?
ANSWER: We know that the crew went ashore during the repair at the Great Barrier Reef to collect local wood for fuel, but the ship's carpenter apparently used wood carried on board to make a temporary repair of the hull. A more substantial repair was made at the Dutch East India Company at Batavia, but we don't yet know the origin of the materials they used.
CAUTION: We need to know more about the materials that would have been used in the Dutch East India Company's shipyard. It is also possible that those exotic repairs were obliterated when the ship was repaired at London before she was taken into the transport service.
QUESTION 8: What other evidence might exist from the circumnavigation with Capt. Cook?
ANSWER: The ENDEAVOUR's crew collected local foods and wood for fuel, and the scientists collected biological samples. It is possible that scraps of exotic wood or other material indigenous to Australia and the South Pacific (such as pollen or microfauna) could have found their way into crevices of the vessel. RIMAP has been sampling apparently undisturbed areas of the silt for such analyses.
CAUTION 1: It is also possible that this material was removed when the ENDEAVOUR was repaired and became the transport LORD SANDWICH. Also, there were at least two other vessels on the Newport station that had been East Indiamen, the transport GRAND DUKE OF RUSSIA (lost along with the LORD SANDWICH in Newport) and the ALARM Galley (lost a few days earlier in the Sakonnet River). There is the possibility such exotic materials could be found in them, as well.
CAUTION 2: For nearly 200 years it was thought that LA LIBERTE, the vessel abandoned in Newport in 1793, had been the ENDEAVOUR. We now know that LA LIBERTE was probably the RESOLUTION instead, which means that the artifacts in private hands and museum collections that came from this ship are mis-labeled. The LA LIBERTE ex ENDEAVOUR identification has been accepted for so long and is so entrenched in past literature, that it is important to remember that these earlier artifacts may be used for contemporary comparisons, but not as diagnostic materials for the identification of the transport LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR.
A carved crown (with fleur-de-lis), wood samples, boxes, and the sternpost from LA LIBERTE, for so long thought to be from the ENDEAVOUR
QUESTION 9: How was the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR adapted for the transport service?
ANSWER: We do know that many of the transports were prepared to carry equipment, horses, artillery, and large numbers of troops. We have no specific information about how the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR was changed, but we do know that she was in such poor condition when first offered to the transport service that she failed survey and had to be repaired before she could be accepted.
CAUTION: Although we don't yet know exactly what those repairs had been, it is certain that they would have corrected some of the damage and disintegration arising from her long service in the Royal Navy, and especially because of her voyages in the southern hemisphere (first with Cook and then to the Falklands carrying naval supplies). We do not know if any of her original adaptations for Cook's voyage were retained after that refit.
QUESTION 10: What do we know about the LORD SANDWICH and her service as a transport?
ANSWER: We know which troops were on board during the Atlantic crossing, and which troops were carried from New York to Rhode Island. It is possible that we will find artifactual evidence of these troops on the Newport shipwreck sites. Our assumption is that the LORD SANDWICH would have been in particularly poor condition because of her history, although there is evidence that she made short sails in Narragansett Bay. We don't yet know if she had been included in the fleets that went to Long Island to collect wood for fuel.
CAUTION: As noted in the general discussion above, a cluster of artifacts from a particular regiment carried on board will be stronger evidence than a single artifact in making the connection between the troops aboard a single vessel and that vessel's identity.
QUESTION 11: Is there something unusual about how the LORD SANDWICH transport was used in Newport?
ANSWER: We know that the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR was used intermittently as a prison ship while she was in Newport, and we have the names of some of the American prisoners who were kept on board. Some of these prisoners were quite prominent in Newport at the time, and it is possible that there may be artifactual evidence of their presence left behind on the site.
CAUTION: We know that the RACHEL AND MARY was also used as a prison ship in Newport, and it is possible that at times some of the same prisoners were kept on her as well.
Our research process is to find all of the transports that still exist, to study each site in turn, and to determine how closely each fits the descriptions of the known transports. As of this writing (2013), there is a better than even chance that the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR is among the transport sites already found. Even if the ENDEAVOUR is not found, Rhode Island has discovered the largest Revolutionary War fleets of transports, and that is significant because little is known about this important (but usually overlooked) ship class of the American Revolution.
Captain James Cook never came to Rhode Island, but many of his ships did!
In the identification of the LORD SANDWICH ex ENDEAVOUR, there is a greater likelihood that materials associated with the ship's later use in Rhode Island will have survived in the archaeological record than materials associated with James Cook and his voyage. This means that, once all of the transport sites have been located in Newport Harbor, and once the preliminary non-disturbance maps are done, they must be carefully excavated to answer the questions (and others) on the list above.
But excavation requires the ability to manage the artifacts that excavation generates. This means conservation, preservation, storage, and study. We know from our early work on RI 2119 and RI 2125 that these sites are artifact rich, even those where the surface has already been scavenged by earlier visitors. Therefore, RIMAP is in a long term process to create a proper artifact management facility that will provide the technical support necessary for the excavations we plan to do in the future. Without such a facility, and the properly trained staff to manage it, excavation of the Newport transports would be irresponsible. However, with such a facility, RIMAP will be able to understand more about the British transports used in the American Revolution and to share the exciting news about the importance of that war in Rhode Island.
RIMAP's first choice of location for this facility is at Butts Hill in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, site of the largest Revolutionary War earthwork in southern New England, and the center of the American line in the 1778 Battle of Rhode Island. With a grant from the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program, RIMAP has created a master plan for the facility to be located there. (See also the essay about Butts Hill Fort
in the RI Facts section of this website.)
Although a single feature is unlikely to be adequate for a positive identification of most shipwreck sites, if the artifact assemblage generated by excavation from a specific transport site is consistent with the ship having been the LORD SANDWICH transport, if the ship's construction details are consistent with it having been the ENDEAVOUR BARK, and if no other site in the Newport transport fleet can make that claim, then we can confidently announce that we have found that historic ship.
We expect that this work will take us a number of years more to make that conclusion.
An essay to explain the legal protections on the transport fleet, and the ENDEAVOUR in Newport Harbour
Original August 20, 2012 / Revised June 2, 2013 © RIMAP 2013
The British transports sunk in Newport in 1778 were not ships of war (i.e. Naval vessels from a combatant country) and that is why they are not protected by the convention that Naval vessels lost in acts of war always belong to their country of origin. Because the transports were privately owned and only chartered to the British government to carry troops to North America (and the ENDEAVOUR had been sold out of the Royal Navy to a private owner who then offered her back to the government for that use), whatever remained of the transport fleet sunk in Newport Harbour was eligible for salvage.
Salvage is a legal Admiralty action that is designed to "return goods to the stream of commerce" and that means that a ship and/or its cargo is saved for commercial purposes. Salvors do not own the ship and cargo unless they also take title to them. Instead they save the ship and cargo for the owner and are then paid for their services. This process means that these materials are dispersed, and in the case of historic shipwrecks, the artifacts are sold to defray the expenses of the salvage. This action is against the historical and archaeological preservation ethic that collections should be kept together for future research and public access.
It became clear that the current federal the preservation laws to protect historic shipwrecks are not as strong as those related to commercial salvage when a western state's attempt to protect an historic shipwreck went to the US Supreme Court (the BROTHER JONATHAN case). In that legal case more than fourteen years ago, the preservationists were trounced by commercial interests, and it became clear to RIMAP that the protection of the historical ships in Rhode Island was inadequate.
The original "arrest of the wreck"
About the same time RIMAP discovered that the ENDEAVOUR may be among the transports in Newport, so we asked then Rhode Island Attorney General, Sheldon Whitehouse (now our junior US Senator), to manage the salvage actions in Federal Court to protect the transports. The State of Rhode Island took a salvage award (with RIMAP as its agent), and then later took title to the fleet. So now Rhode Island owns "all non-motorized wooden vessels" in the 2-square mile area where we know the transports were sunk.
There is also a lot of other non-transport material in that area that fits the same description of "non-motorized wooden vessels," but this particular legal move was to ensure that when we found the transports, the State would own them and not some commercial company that would cut them up to sell bits for souvenirs. There can be only one salvage claim to property at a time, and there was the possibility that a salvor could come into Newport Harbour, and find and claim the transports while RIMAP was still working on them. Because preservation laws wouldn't stop that intrusion on our archaeological work, we became salvors to forestall such an eventuality, and now that the State has title, there will be no competition over ownership. We in RIMAP are still historians and archaeologists and our goal is to protect history -- we just are using a better legal tool of salvage law to achieve that goal.
Senator Whitehouse later visited the RIMAP office to see what he protected.
The salvage award area
Unfortunately, any protection of the lost fleet is only as good as its enforcement. If divers were to be seen coming out of the water on a transport site with artifacts in their hands, the questions are: Who will do the arrest (there aren't many folks who have that authority and they are spread thin on Rhode Island waters), who will then prosecute (that's an expensive process), and will there be a deterrent penalty if the prosecution succeeds (the fines are very low)? But now that the State owns the sites and RIMAP is the "salvor of record" and now the State's agent, that puts any vandalism/theft into the economic sphere rather than as a preservaation issue. And now that we are positioning our project to take advantage of what we see as potential international heritage tourism relating to Cook's ships, the current Rhode Island Attorney General is on record that he will support our efforts.
There will always be thieves and malicious vandals who will break the law, but another problem is also that the transport fleet in Newport harbour is at risk of unintentional damage. The area is very busy with lots of different kinds of small craft and large ship traffic, anchorages and mooring fields, lobster trawls and other fishing activities, yacht races, and parts of the area have even been dredged. All of this activity has had an impact on the bottom, including the historic shipwreck sites. In addition, the Newport Bridge was built through the northern end of the line of transports, which also disturbed the sites that were there. Much of this interference was done long before heritage preservation was an issue, and certainly long before anyone knew what important things might be disturbed. We even have found 19th-century news items of divers tearing up intact old ships that were still to be seen under those waters (and probably that were transports, although the descriptions are not conclusive).
Today archaeologists can't impede the traditional uses of the water in all of the study area, but more than eight years ago RIMAP went to the Rhode Island Governor for help in making a no-anchor/no-dive zone at a smaller rectangle in the harbour where we had found sites near each other. The State's Coastal Resources Management Council awarded that restriction, and as we find the rest of the fleet, we hope to expand that protection. Of course there still are problems of oversight and enforcement. Unfortunately, anyone who watches us work will know generally where the sites are, and yes, we have seen vandalism, even when we are actively working on a site. And if it has been some time since our last visit to a particular location, the chances of that happening increase.
There isn't enough money (not just here in Rhode Island but for every historic shipwreck) to monitor everything 24/7, protect them from vandals and thieves, and especially to protect them from unintentional damage. One of the major projects in this country that successfully protected its site was the Civil War submarine HUNLEY. Southerners are passionate about protecting their heritage, and luckily that ship was found in a geographic area that was congenial to the complete oversight of a quickly established no-passage zone. There were also the resources to enforce the zone with vigor, as well as money for conservation and display of the ship and its contents.
At least in Rhode Island there is a growing number of local folks who know that there is something important in Newport harbour and some of those who live along the waterfront nearby are watchdogs for the Newport Harbourmaster, Capt. Tim Mills. He is quite vigilant on our behalf, but he also has a limited staff, the harbour is large, and they have many other responsibilities, the most important of which is public safety.
Senior US Senator from Rhode Island, Jack Reed, also visited the RIMAP office to see what is being protected and to express his support.
So what this all means is that there are always folks who will do mischief, regardless of what the law says. Our hope instead is to educate the public so that they know that such behaviour is illegal and to the detriment of the public good. And we hope that they will help to protect the transport fleet, whether or not we ever prove we have found the ENDEAVOUR.
TRANSFORMATIONS OF A MAN, HIS SHIP AND ARCHAEOLOGY:
James Cook, the Endeavour Bark, and RIMAP
D. K. Abbass, Kerry Lynch, Kathryn Curran © RIMAP 2014
[Note: a final version of this paper was published on pp. 365-369 of the American Council for Underwater Archaeology Proceedings, Fall 2014.]
In 1993 the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (called RIMAP) began fieldwork in Newport Harbor, partly to find the 13 British transports scuttled there in 1778 during the American Revolution. They were sunk to protect the British-occupied city from a French threat in the days leading up to the Battle of Rhode Island. In 1998 we found documents that proved the Lord Sandwich transport had been Capt. James Cook's Endeavour Bark of his first circumnavigation, and that she was part of this sunken Newport transport fleet. The international interest in Cook and the Endeavour now prompts us to share with our SHA colleagues an update of our fieldwork, but it is especially important to understand why such interest continues in this man, his ship, and our work.
RIMAP's side scan surveys of Newport Harbor between 1993 and 2005 by Zarzynski, Capone, and Mather used increasingly sophisticated equipment and produced targets where the transports were known to have been lost south of the modern Newport Bridge. In those early years our divers also mapped two known 18th-century sites north of the bridge. Then in 2007, with Kozak's integrated GPS and graphics, we achieved the most sophisticated survey of the area south of the Bridge and we began mapping those sites, too. The eight site maps are presented here, but not in any particular order, and without specific locations.
North of the Bridge:
- Site 1: This site has a modern a barge to the side of an 18th-century ballast pile. We first mapped the barge in 1993, and then by 1999 we had a good footprint of the older site, using baseline mapping techniques. Because the barge was deteriorating and the condition of the earlier site was a concern, we remapped it in 2012 and 2013, this time using a grid of 3-foot cells. The 18th-century site was generally intact, but lobster trawls and natural processes had badly damaged the barge.
- Site 2: This site was studied in 1998-2002, but the original grid lines were set at 5 feet. Our graphic artist has reset the grid lines at 3 feet for comparison to the other sites.
Sites South of the Bridge
- Site 3: Although we only had funds to map the footprint of this site, that was enough to give us an idea of its orientation and size.
- Sites 4 & 5: One site may be smaller than the others because of post-loss disturbance, or perhaps because it is more heavily silted.
- Sites 6 & 7: At present, we can only suspect why some sites are round and compact, and why some are long and narrow.
- The most dramatic site is the largest one with five visible cannon.
We know from the artifacts exposed on these sites that at least seven of them clearly date from the 18th-century, but one may be later. If these are all transports, and not other 18th-century vessels lost in Newport Harbor, then we have found 7 or 8 of the 13 known to have been scuttled there during the Revolution.
Assuming that they are all transports, and without identifying any of the sites, these predisturbance maps allow some interesting observations on ship management for the fleet as a whole. We know that it was common to chain together block vessels a cable apart, or about 600 feet. The side scan targets and our fieldwork confirm such regular spacing. It appears that the southern sites are oriented more north/south than east/west, which would be consistent with being chained bow to stern in a northing manner as shown on this contemporary Fage chart. The exception is Site 1, which lies more east/west in a narrow passage at the north end of the harbor. Such transverse orientation would have been a practical way to enhance the intended blockade. We also know that the transports were put down in at least two groups between August 5th and 9th. Therefore, it is tempting to suggest that the direction of the current at the time the ships were scuttled may have caused their slight tilts to left or right.
Simple comparisons of the 8 site maps suggest general fleet managment, but these pre-disturbance maps cannot identify which site is which transport. We expect that such answers will come from the artifacts and samples resulting from test excavations, and especially when compared with each ship's history before its loss. RIMAP's preliminary field studies of Newport Harbor will continue until we are confident that we have located as many of the 18th-century sites as it is possible to find with current technology. At the same time, we have begun a planning process to create the conservation and storage facility needed to manage the artifacts and samples expected to be generated by excavation, and of course to share those results with the public.
Meanwhile, interest has re-emerged in whether or not the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour is one of the sites that we have already mapped, especially since the site maps presented today have a better than even chance to include that particular vessel. However, the pressure to find one ship should be balanced with a consideration of the larger historical and sociological issues of how James Cook became a hero, how that ship became an icon of the British Empire, and ultimately how RIMAP's study of the transports may help to understand the cult of personality surrounding them.
James Cook was a nobody. The son of a Scottish immigrant and Yorkshire mother, he was born in 1728, at a time when birth station and patronage were the paramount determinants of life success. He received limited local education, and then failed as a shop assistant. At age 19 Cook apprenticed as a merchant seaman to John Walker, a prominent ship-owner in Whitby, but in 1755, just as Walker offered him his first command, Cook joined the Royal Navy as an able seaman. He was older than most who might aspire to an Officer's billet, and without influential friends, he had little potential for advancement.
Nevertheless, he did his sea time, and his exceptional skills were quickly recognized. He served for a number of years in northeastern Canada, where by chance he met Samuel Holland and Joseph Des Barres, from whom he learned cartography. Since we are here today in Quebec, it is interesting to note that in 1759 Cook marked the safe passage of the Traverse, east of the nearby Isle d'Orleans, and this enabled the British to approach Quebec and engage in the battle that ended the French and Indian War. Although Generals Montcalm and Wolfe were the heroes of that battle, Cook was mentioned positively in dispatches, despite his embarrassing loss of transports in the distracting feint against the north shore of the St. Lawrence.
Eventually Cook's mapping and seamanship skills brought him command of a ship to be sent on a scientific expedition to observe the 1769 Transit of Venus at Tahiti. This ship was the Earl of Pembroke, a sturdy but non-descript Whitby-built vessel, similar to the commercial vessels in which Cook had apprenticed. Renamed the Endeavour, she was taken into the Royal Navy, and Cook mapped the east coast of Australia in her, which later allowed England to claim and settle that continent. That is why today Cook is so important in Australian Colonial history, and why the Endeavour is considered to be that country's founding vessel.
Despite the seaman's respect for his vigilance about crew health, and particularly his impressive response to the challenges of the Great Barrier Reef, James Cook was not the star on the Endeavour's return to England. That honor went instead to Joseph Banks, the wealthy young patron aboard who made important collections of flora and fauna throughout the voyage. So Banks was the lion of London society when Cook was sent around the world twice more, this time in the Resolution. Then Cook was killed in Hawaii in 1779, but not before he had explored more of the world than anyone else in history.
After Endeavour's circumnavigation, she continued in use as a navy store ship until she was sold and joined the transport service. Under the name Lord Sandwich she carried Hessian troops to Newport, was a prison ship there, and then scuttled in 1778. There was some distress when the news arrived in England that Cook was lost so cruelly at Hawaii, but there was no lament about any of the transports when they were sunk, and certainly no recognition of the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour's great achievements.
In 1783 a ship named La Liberte was abandoned along the Newport shore, and 35 years later, in 1828, this vessel was mis-identified as the Endeavour. Newport entreprenuers made presentation gifts from La Liberte's timbers, and smaller bits of wood were sold with an affidavit stating that they came from the Endeavour. These artifacts found their ways into museums and private collections around the world, and one even went up in the Endeavour space shuttle.
In 1998 that story was overturned by amateur Australian historians who showed that La Liberte had in fact been the Whitby collier that became the Royal Navy's Resolution. She was the primary vessel of Cook's second and third voyages, and by the time she was abandoned in Newport, she was serving in the French whale fishery. This parallels the Endeavour's transformations from collier, to Royal Navy explorer, to commercial vessel, and then overlooked wreck in Newport. Both are dramatic examples of adaptive reuse, and they demonstrate how such expensive technology was not cherished, but instead stayed in service until their usefulness expired.
So what happened between 1728 when Cook was born into very modest circumstances, and 1828 when he was recognized as a hero, his ship was an icon of the British empire, and local Newporters took the commercial advantage of selling bits of a local derelict ship. It was, of course, the flowering of the Industrial Revolution, its creation of new wealth, and a growing middle class to spend that wealth.
Before Cook was born, a man could improve his lot in life only if he had powerful patrons or provided some military, naval, or financial service to the Crown. By 1828 the concept of social mobility, based on talent and hard work, had emerged, and Cook was the poster boy for the hero who rose from humble beginnings to international prominence. Then throughout the Victorian era, communities around the world validated their connection to Cook by erecting statues and monuments, and today these are sometimes important for local heritage tourism.
Changes in public attitudes about historic properties emerged in the 20th century, with the enactment of preservation laws, and especially with government funding to support protection of heritage sites. Archaeology benefitted from the transformation in attitude about what was previously considered abandoned junk, especially the elevation of historic archaeology sites to equal the legitimacy of their pre-historic counterparts, and hence the establishment of the Society for Historical Archaeology.
This is how the 20th-century preservation movement transformed the Newport transports from a collection of what one local waterman had called "nasty old wrecks" into important archaeological sites. And RIMAP's discovery that the Lord Sandwich transport had been Cook's Endeavour further elevates that "nasty" fleet because it includes one of the most important vessels in European exploration history. That is also why the Australian National Maritime Museum now owns an Endeavour replica, and since 1999 they have intermittently sent archaeological divers to participate in RIMAP's research.
The last "transformation" in this paper is a brief comment about the distressed economics of modern archaeology. Many academic institutions are in financial difficulty, the employment outlook is bleak for their archaeology students, and there is increasingly stiff competition for the diminishing numbers of cultural resource management contracts. On the other hand, the future of archaeology may be found in small-business-management and not-for-profit models such as the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project.
Although it took a number of years for RIMAP to complete the eight transport site maps using volunteers, and with a fraction of the budgets available to other institutions, we have achieved good results, and we have exciting plans for the future. So we encourage you to contact us if you are interested to share RIMAP's slow success.