In search of HMB Endeavour.

In September 2018, SWF joined the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) and the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) in their ongoing work investigating vessels deliberately sunk by the British in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island in defense of the city of Newport during the American War of Independence.

Among these wrecked vessels, lies one by the name of Lord Sandwich. The 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montague, was First Lord of the Admiralty three times and was an avid supporter of James Cook’s voyages of discovery. In fact, Cook named the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) in his honour.

Captain James Cook was ultimately killed in Hawaii. The vessel Lord Sandwich is none other than Cook’s grand old lady, HMB Endeavour.

Working on one of the shipwreck sites, undertaking detail photography for site reconstruction purposes. Footage Irini Malliaros; © 2018 RIMAP

But which one out of 13 lying at the bottom of the sea, is she?

The ANMM and RIMAP have been working on this riddle for several years – each dive into the archives and each season in the field narrowing down the possibilities to fewer and fewer sites.

This season, it was down to two.

We joined the team in undertaking detailed surveys of the sites. Techniques included:

  • metal detecting (the sites are under layers of silt)
  • photography for photogrammetry purposes (reconstructing the subject in 3D with specialised software)
  • detailed measurement of diagnostic structural elements eg. dimensions of ship’s frames
  • timber sampling of appropriate sections of timber for wood species ID purposes

This data, along with archival information has the potential to reveal conclusively which wreck site is that of Lord Sandwich. That of Endeavour.

The 2018 field season has now concluded and the analysis of the collected data has begun. The team has identified what they believe to be the most likely candidate, now it remains for the results of the analysis to support or refute the theory.