Often asked questions about the 2019 fieldwork

Published by Kathy Abbass on Monday, 16th September 2019 - 2:15PM

(L) The RIMAP research vessel working over the potential Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour site. © RIMAP 2019 Photo by Shannon Nelson-Maney (R) The triage artifact management tent on the nearby Gurney's Resort grounds. © RIMAP 2019 Photo by Shannon Nelson-Maney


Information is found in the various essays on this website, but here is a summary:

Question 1: What is the next stage in the research and how long do you think it will take to confirm that the wreck is the Lord Sandwich/Endeavour?

It has taken 27 years from RIMAP's first remote sensing of Newport's Outer Harbor to find the 1778 transport fleet, and it has been 21 years since we first thought the Lord Sandwich might have been the Endeavour. The lack of funding is the main reason for RIMAP's slow progress, but our partnership with the Australian National Maritime Museum has been the support that allows us to do such exciting work together during the 250th anniversary years of Cook sailing around the world in the Endeavour.

Now that the intense 2019 field season is over, the next steps are to continue intermittent work on the site to secure the excavated areas, remove gear, and to continue photography during the colder weather when the water is clearer than in the summer. At the same time we have a great deal of work to do at the RIMAP lab at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, RI. That process started at the triage tent on shore as the excavation was in progress. Now at the lab we will conserve and study the artifacts and samples, and analyze the other data collected during the excavation. It is hard to estimate how long that will take, but we will share those results when appropriate. And of course, we are beginning the plans for next year, too.

Question 2: What will it take to confirm that this shipwreck site is the Endeavour

There is a lot of interest in finding the Endeavour, and part of that proof will be to see that ship's structure is consistent with what is known of her when the Earl of Pembroke collier was surveyed and then selected for the circumnavigation. She was renamed the Endeavour when she was taken into the Royal Navy for that service. Unfortunately, historical sources have skewed the data on which this study is based because there is a great deal known about the Endeavour and very little, if anything, known about the construction of the other ships in the same fleet that was scuttled in Newport Harbor in 1778. In the absence of reliable data about those other vessels, all we can say is whether or not this particular shipwreck site is consistent with what is known about the Endeavour, and that as yet we see nothing to say it isn't her.

We do expect to find repairs to the ship's structure that we know were done during Cook's voyage, and intermittently during the ship's later use. However, we do not expect to find anything in the collection of artifacts and samples taken from this site that is associated with Cook and his voyage. In the seven years after Cook left her, she carried Royal Navy supplies to the Falklands, then as the Lord Sandwich transport she carried troops to North America for service in the Revolutionary War. Her last use was as a prison ship in Newport Harbor, and items associated with that purpose might be the most likely to find on the site. Therefore, if we find items associated with those later uses, they will support the conclusion that this site is the Lord Sandwich. And since the Lord Sandwich was the Endeavour that was the Earl of Pembroke, then we know we have the right archaeological site and it is what remains of that iconic vessel.

So it will take a combination of data about the ship's structure that is congruent with what is known about the Endeavour, and that the retrieved artifacts are congruent with what is known of the Lord Sandwich

Even if this site turns out not to be the Endeavour, all of the ships in that transport fleet that we have found and mapped are important to US history and the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, the other ships don't attract the same international attention.

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