Published by Kathy Abbass on Tuesday, 10th September 2019 - 9:50PM

(L) The interpretive sign on the shore of Gurney's Resort on Goat overlooking the site and the RIMAP research vessel. Photo by S. Nelson-Maney © 2019 RIMAP (R) The original site map of what may be the remains of the Endeavour. © RIMAP 2008


The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) and its partners the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) and SilentWorld Foundation (SWF) announced 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. 

After greetings from Charlotte, Taylor, an archaeologist with the Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, Kevin Sumption, CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum, spoke about what finding the Endeavour means to Australia. The Hon. Joe McNamara (Representative from District 19) presented Special Citations from the RI State Legislature to the ANMM and Mr. Sumption for their continued support of RIMAP. Dr. Kerry Lynch, RIMAP's Field Supervisor for the Newport fieldwork, gave an overview of how the excavation was done and how the artifacts were retrieved, and Amelia Hammond, RIMAP's Conservator, had some of those artifacts on display for public viewing. 

The 3-D image of some of the exposed timbers. Photos by James Hunter et al. © RIMAP 2019

ANMM archaeologist Dr. James Hunter presented 3-D images of some of the exposed timbers, and ANMM Marine Archaeology Director Kieran Hosty explained what is known of how the Endeavour was built and how the exposed timbers compare to what we must find to prove this site is that iconic vessel. RIMAP's Principal Investigator, Dr. Kathy Abbass, summarized these findings as very suggestive and reminded the attendees that the Lord Sandwich transport (previously the Endeavour) is important to Rhode Island history, too, because she played an important part in the American Revolution here. The archaeological work has been extended into the week following the media event, and if there is new evidence, we will report it in due course.

The grid used to control the excavation. Photo by John Cassese © RIMAP 2019

The summary of the 2019 work:

• The site's location is in the area of Newport's Outer Harbor where the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour® is known to have been scuttled in 1778;

• The excavation exposed artifacts and ship's structure to confirm that this site is an 18th-century shipwreck;

• The excavation exposed artifacts and samples, including sheaves, and other wood fragments, bits of leather, textiles, glass, and ceramics, samples of coal and charcoal, ballast and worked stone including gun flints. None of this is immediately diagnostic of which ship this site could be.

The diver hand fans the silt covering into the water column, it is then removed by the dredge, thus exposing a sheave (part of the rigging). Photo by John Cassese © RIMAP 2019

• The excavation also exposed a small part of the ship's structure and the dimensions and arrangements of those timbers are similar to those known to be from the Endeavour. However, this is only one small opened area, and the construction details of the other ships nearby are not yet known.

• Although this site still looks promising, there is still no hard evidence that it is the Endeavour. But more importantly, there is nothing to say that it is one of the other vessels that was part of the Newport fleet of transports and victuallers that were scuttled nearby in Newport's Outer Harbor in 1778.

• Further excavation will continue, but later data analysis of these findings in the RIMAP lab at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol may provide the evidence needed to prove this site is the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour.®

• So although there is nothing to say this is the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour® there is nothing to say that it is not.

Part of a barrel head. Photo by John Cassese © RIMAP 2019

Of particular note: The identification of this site as the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour® has been of great interest to the media, but the 2019 fieldwork has now answered a long-standing question of how these vessels were scuttled. The past presumption was that holes were cut in their bottoms to allow the ships to sink, but there had been no historic evidence discovered to describe the details of that action. However, the current excavation near the keel has found such a hole cut through the bottom, suggesting that the location of the holes was also part of the decision-making for how to sink the vessels most efficiently. That is the sort of small detail that increases the understanding of how these ships were managed, and it is an important contribution of marine archaeology to maritime history research, too.  

The crate in which artifacts were taken to the surface. Photo by John Cassese © RIMAP 2019

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