Published by Kathy Abbass on Saturday, 7th September 2019 - 11:13AM

The RIMAP research vessel working over the potential Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour site. © RIMAP 2019 Photo by Shannon Nelson-Maney


The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) and its partners the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) and SilentWorld Foundation (SWF) will announce the results of their current Newport Harbor shipwreck studies at a 3 p.m. public event on Sunday, Sept. 8, on the grounds of Gurney's Resort on Goat Island, Newport, RI. The 2019 research included excavations to locate diagnostic features of the ship's structure, and was designed to determine if this vessel may be the Lord Sandwich transport, scuttled in Newport in 1778, the ship that earlier had been the Endeavour Bark of Capt. James Cook's first circumnavigation of 1768-1771. Throughout the excavation, the public has been able to observe the conservation team as it conducted the preliminary documentation of the retrieved artifacts and samples at the temporary triage location on the grounds of Gurney's Resort. 

The September 8 event to announce "Is it Endeavour?" is free and open to the public. 

At the grid during excavation, showing the best visibility in local waters. © RIMAP 2019 Photo by John Cassese

Thirteen RIMAP-trained volunteers joined eight professional archaeologists from the United States and Australia to conduct the excavations and manage the artifact and samples. The dive team opened a narrow 3-foot-wide trench across the eastern side of the Newport Harbor site to determine the general shape of the ship's hull. The Endeavour was a flat-bottomed collier designed to carry coal along the east coast of England, and she was selected for the expedition because of her capacity to carry Cook and his crew, Joseph Banks and his scientists, plus all the supplies and equipment needed for their three year voyage. The team opened another narrow trench along the keel/keelson assembly to locate potential features that are consistent with what is known of the Endeavour's original construction and repairs made during her later uses.

Uncovering a wooden sheave that was then retrieved. © RIMAP 2019 Photo by John Cassese

cRIMAP Conservator and volunteers worked at the triage location on Goat Island sorted artifacts to decide what should be sent to the RIMAP lab at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol and what should be returned to the excavation. This was an opportunity for visitors to observe archaeological activities that are usually not available to the public. These items included wooden sheaves and other bits of rigging, coal and charcoal, ballast and worked stone including gun flints, plus wood fragments, bits of leather, textiles, glass, and ceramics. All of this material will undergo professional conservation at the newly-established facility at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, but it is all consistent with coming from an 18th-century vessel. Although artifacts clearly associated with James Cook would be an exciting way to prove the ship's identity as the Endeavour, materials associated with the vessel's later use as the Lord Sandwich transport are more likely to be present. Therefore, if the preponderance of evidence suggests that this is the Lord Sandwich, and especially if there is no evidence suggests that she could be another of ships scuttled together in 1778, then the team has identified the Lord Sandwich. And since the Lord Sandwich had been the Endeavour, then Cook's iconic vessel is found.

The tent at Gurney's for the triage artifact management location. © RIMAP 2019 Photo by Shannon Nelson-Maney

At the Sept. 8 event, the archaeological team members will describe how the excavation has been executed and how the artifacts and samples have been managed. A short video of the work will show the challenges of diving in Newport Harbor, and 3-D photogrammetric images of the newly exposed wooden timbers clearly show some of the ship's construction details. Artifacts and samples will be displayed. Kevin Sumption, PSM, Director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, will discuss the importance of the excavation, what Endeavour and Capt. Cook mean to Australia, and how the museum will feature this research as part of the 250th anniversary remembrance of Cook's exploration of Australia's east coast. The Hon. Joseph McNamara, will give greetings for the State of Rhode Island, and will recognize the cooperation between the partners that have conducted the ongoing investigations of the Newport transport fleet and the search for the Endeavour. 

Later results of the data analyses will be posted on this website.

Gurmey's shoreside sign overlooking the RIMAP research vessel working on the site. © RIMAP 2019 Photo by Shannon Nelson-Maney

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