CAREFUL research has been carried which could establish whether a shipwreck off the east coast of the US is that of Captain Cook’s Whitby-built Endeavour.

Archaeologists from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) are set to make a joint announcement with the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) on Friday (September 21), about the results of a 25-year-long archaeological study of a sunken fleet of vessels, off Newport’s Goat Island.

The event will review how the research has narrowed the search for the Endeavour from a fleet of 13 sunken vessels to possibly five ships on just one or two archaeological sites.

In 1770 the Endeavour became the first European ship to reach the east coast of Australia when Captain James Cook, who grew up in Great Ayton and began his maritime career in Whitby, reached what is now known as Botany Bay.

The Endeavour had been built as a Whitby collier ship, also known as a Whitby Cat, designed to transport coal, before she was commissioned as a research vessel by the Royal Navy and used by Captain Cook on his first voyage of discovery.

Later, the ship was renamed the Lord Sandwich 2 and was used as a prison for Americans captured during the war of independence by the British.

It was scuppered in 1778 along with 12 other ships to act as a blockade in the lead up to the battle of Rhode Island. The battle took place between British and American forces during the American Revolutionary War.

The director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Kevin Sumption, told the Australian edition of the Guardian that a promising site had been located, but it had yet to be confirmed as the ship’s final resting place. He said they were carrying out careful forensic analysis of samples of timber. He said most of the ships scuppered in Newport were made from American or Indian timbers, but the Endeavour was built in the north of England, mainly from oak.

If the timber samples originated from Britain, researchers will seek approval from authorities in the US to dig around the wreckage for further evidence.

RIMAP is a not-for-profit organisation that trains volunteers to participate in professionally-directed research. Its archaeological investigation combined high-tech mapping of the seabed with analysis of historical shipping documents found in London.

The news coincides with this year’s 250th anniversary of Cook’s departure from the UK in the Endeavour and is just ahead of the 2020 anniversary of Cook's arrival in Australia.

A full-scale replica of HMS Endeavour arrived in Whitby earlier this year to form part of a new tourist attraction. It has been transformed into a floating museum to mark the 250th anniversary of Cook's first expedition to the Pacific.

Gary Readman is a trustee of the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum in Great Ayton, which tells the story of the explorer’s early life and education in the village. He said although Cook captained other ships on major voyages of exploration, the HMS Endeavour still captured the public's imagination, as it was his first major voyage and led to his exploration of the east coast of Australia.

Gary said; “I think this is great news; it’s the 250th anniversary of when Cook first set sail on a serious voyage. It’s quite significant in terms of timing.”