Scientists lock horns over ‘discovery’ of James Cook’s ship
Australian archeologists say they found the wreck of the famed ship, but US colleagues dispute the claim
After 22 years of investigation, Australian scientists confirmed they finally found the wreck of British explorer James Cook’s ship off the US coast. Their American colleagues believe the announcement is premature, however.
The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) confirmed on Thursday morning the find in Newport Harbor off the US state of Rhode Island was the final resting place of Cook’s famous 18th century ship, the HMS Endeavour.
“It’s an important historical moment, as this vessel’s role in exploration, astronomy and science applies not just to Australia, but also Aotearoa New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States,” Kevin Sumption, the ANMM’s chief, said in a statement.
“Based on archival and archaeological evidence, I’m convinced it’s the Endeavour,” Sumption wrote.
He also paid tribute to the museum’s US partners at the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP), thanking them for their commitment to the work.
RIMAP executive director Kathy Abbass immediately disputed the statement, however, saying that a lot of “unanswered questions” remain. While the shipwreck is “consistent with what might be expected of the Endeavour,” no “indisputable data” was found to prove it.
RIMAP also accused the ANMM of a breach of contract and said its own work is driven by “proper scientific process and not Australian emotions or politics.”
Abbas also claimed that her organization was the leading team on the research, and promised to post the “legitimate” report on its website when the study is complete.
The ANMM’s Kieran Hosty told ABC News that the contract with RIMAP had expired last November and disagreed with Abbas’ accusation, saying the wreck had features which “correspond to what we know about Endeavour.” He said the Australian researchers were not “jumping the gun” on the announcement.
US and Australian maritime archeologists have been researching several 18th century shipwrecks in the area since 1999. While only 15% of what is claimed to be the Endeavour remains, the researchers are now looking for a way to preserve the wreck.