Timber Bow Proves Captain Cook’s Endeavour is Shipwrecked in US!

Just 15% of the original ship now remains, with naval scientists now looking to restore and preserve the iconic wreckage.

Mon 01 Jan 24


The Australian National Maritime Museum has doubled down on claims that Captain Cook’s Endeavour is shipwrecked off the US coast, famously used to navigate the South Pacific.

When fully verified, the find is the most significant discovery in modern Australian history and has major historical significance for Aotearoa New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The scientists allege that the discovery of a pump well and a section of the wooden bow confirms its identity after first declaring the wreckage in Newport Harbour, Rhode Island, belonged to the ship in 2022.

That claim came after more than 20 years of archaeological examination between Australian and US scientists amid claims that the early identification was a “breach of contract” before blaming “Australian emotions or politics” for the “premature” announcement.

The original Endeavour voyage mapped the east coast of Australia.(Supplied: State Library of New South Wales)

At the time of the announcement, former CEO of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Kevin Sumption, said he was satisfied that the wreck was “the final resting place of one of the most important and contentious vessels in Australia’s maritime history”.

The US delegation, led by Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project executive director Kathy Abbass at the time, said a “legitimate report” on the wreck’s identity would be released when the group’s study was complete.

But the museum told the Guardian yesterday that there had been no further dissenting responses to its claims that the vessel was the Endeavour in the past two years, and it could make a confident claim on the wreckage.

Wood Central understands that the discovery of the vessel’s pump allowed museum maritime archaeologists Kieran Hosty and James Hunter to compare it to plans of the Endeavour generated during a British Admiralty survey of the vessel in 1768.

According to the museum, the positions of the surviving pump-shaft stump and pump-well partitions on the wreck aligned perfectly with those in the archival document.

Having compared the wreck site to the historical plans, archaeologists could also accurately predict the location of the ship’s bow, where they found another convincing piece of evidence.

The Honourable Alister Walton, former Australian consul general (right), and Peter Dexter, former chair of the Australian National Maritime Museum (centre), discuss a model of the HMS Endeavour with the former Aide to Vice Admiral Michael Noonan of the Royal Australian Navy in 2022. (Photo Credit: Supplied by the Royal Australian Navy)

Only about 15% of the vessel remains, with researchers now focused on what can be done to protect and preserve it.

Initially launched in 1764 as the Earl of Pembroke, the ship was renamed Endeavour in 1768 by Britain’s Royal Navy and prepared for a significant scientific voyage to the Pacific.

The HMS Endeavour was initially built by a merchant collier named Earl of Pembroke to carry coal. 

She was launched in 1764 from Whitby, England and built from Yorkshire oak, known for producing rugged and high-quality timber. 

Her hull, internal floors, and futtocks were built from traditional white oak, her keel and stern post from elm, and her masts from pine and fir. 

What was life like on HMS Endeavour? Footage courtesy of @BehindtheNewsABC.

The ship was renamed the Endeavour in 1768 by Britain’s Royal Navy and prepared for a significant scientific voyage to the Pacific. 

From 1768 to 1771, it sailed the South Pacific, primarily to record the transit of Venus in Tahiti in 1769.

Captain Cook then sailed it around the South Pacific, searching for “the Great Southern Land”, charting the coast of New Zealand and Australia’s eastern coastline before claiming the land for Great Britain on 22 August 1770.

The Endeavour was then sold to private owners, renamed Lord Sandwich, and deliberately sunk in 1778 by British forces during the American War of Independence. 

A year later, Captain Cook was killed in Hawaii during his third Pacific voyage, ten years before the first fleet arrived in New South Wales to establish a British colony.

In 2020, the 250th anniversary of Lieutenant James Cook’s voyage on the Endeavour was celebrated, as people remembered the Pacific voyage where Tahiti was first sighted—footage courtesy of @SkyNewsAustralia.

In 2019, the Australian Government gave the museum $6.7 million so its replica of Endeavour could circumnavigate the country, stopping at 39 different spots along the way in recognition of the 250-year-old voyage.

Then Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison initially referred to the voyage as a “re-enactment” but later clarified that he only referred to the ship “retracing” Captain Cook’s course along Australia’s east coast.

He said it would offer Australians insight into the voyage as well as the experiences of Indigenous Australians.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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