“It’s James Cook’s ship.” And Australia snatches the discovery from the USA

from Massimo Sideri

The ship of the English explorer Endeavor (possibly) located in the depths off Rhode Island but American experts have raised doubts

There are two Cooks in the history of exploration. And it is difficult to say which was the most important: the first was James Cook, the English explorer of the eighteenth century, who with his ship Endeavor revealed the secrets of the Pacific, of Australia and drew the first maps of New Zealand. The second state Frederick Cook, an American who lived at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to whom the kindness of history has substantially acknowledged (belatedly) the fact that he first arrived at the North Pole on April 21, 1908. Now a wreck at the bottom of the sea in front of Newport, near Rhode Island in the United States, has been recognized after 22 years of archaeological investigation: the HMS Endeavor, James Cook’s ship. To say it are the Australians of the Australian National Maritime Museum who, for obvious reasons, feel very attached to Cook, despite the fact that the British have long made Australia a penal colony. It is a legendary ship, like the HMS Beagle on which Charles Darwin travels. Or Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance which miraculously saved all its crew forced to live for three years at the Polo.

But not everyone agrees: American experts from Rhode Island raised doubts and expressed discontent. And there is a reason: several historians already suspected that the ship that was used by Cook between 1768 and 1779 had been sunk right off Newport by the British themselves during the American Revolution. In the area there are several wrecks dating back to the time. And the suspect already had a name: RI 2394. Hence the disappointment of the Americans in Newport at the discovery within an inch of their noses: Endeavor was also the name of a Space Shuttle spacecraft and it is part of American history as Cook also came to Hawaii.

But starting from the structural analysis of these wrecks that Australian experts are convinced that they have found confirmation: It all coincides. We still have plans for the Endeavor. And Cook himself left his famous diaries (actually illegible, as well as Shackleton’s, not out of inexperience: they were logbooks, not novels).

Certainly not the first detective story on explorations: an alleged mystery concerns the remains of Christopher Columbus which, according to the Dominican Republic, whose first governor was one of Columbus’s sons, would remain in place. In fact, the historical documentation leads exactly to where we know the tomb of the Genoese navigator is: in Seville. But also on the second Cook there is a yellow: He was long credited as being the first man at the North Pole Peary who, having arrived in April 1909, hastened to declare it to the New York Times (while Cook calmly returned). On the other hand, that news pushed the Norwegian Roald Amundsen to aim for the South Pole where he certainly arrived first on 14 December 1911. Norwegians did not want to take any risks: his ship, the Fram, has a museum dedicated to Oslo.

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