The search is on for the Endeavour in Newport Harbor. (Photo of HM Bark Endeavour Replica at the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney, Australia)

There could be changes coming soon in the search for Captain Cook’s Lord Sandwich/Endeavour off the coast of Newport, or at least to who is permitted to do the work to look for it.

Members of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) voted on Wednesday to approve consultation with the R.I. Attorney General’s Office to update or otherwise modify or terminate the 1999 memorandum agreement between RIHPHC and the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project regarding HMS Endeavour.

The vote was unanimous with one member of the commission abstaining.

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12 Meter Charters

Several members of the group spoke during the meeting to the exclusivity of the original agreement and argued whether any group should have exclusive rights to any state property.

Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission

Since 1999, the United States District Court of Rhode Island wrote the following memorandum where RIHPHC and RIMAP agreed that RIMAP would be the exclusive archaeological investigator of RI 2125 (Endeavour) and the Newport Transport Fleet until “at such time the State determines that this is no longer in its interest, or unless and until a court of competent jurisdiction determines ownership to be with another , such as the Government of Great Britain; the the case, for instance of ownership being with the Government of Great Britain, the United States Navy would take precedence over the State in the management and protection of the said shipwreck (s)”

1999 Memorandum Agreement


With the 250th Anniversary of Cook’s voyage to Australia approaching in spring 2020, there’s interest from around the world to solidify where the ship sits at the bottom of Newport Harbor as soon as possible.

Now that the board has voted to move forward with the consultation, J. Paul Loether, executive director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, will work with the Assistant Attorney General of Rhode Island to “get to a better agreement (between RIMAP and RIHPHC) or to terminate the agreement”.

Changes to the agreement, whether an update or termination of it, would allow other companies and organizations interested in the search for the Endeavour to apply with the RIHPHC to participate in the work and search.

On April 28th, RIMAP announced 2019 Endeavour Study Plans and that they would be creating an artifact management facility at Herreshoff Marine Museum. With RIMAP possibly without a future agreement, those recently announced plans could suddenly be null and void.

Loether expects to meet with the Assistant Attorney General of Rhode Island next week to discuss and update or terminate the agreement between RIHPHC and RIMAP.

A request for comment from RIMAP was not immediately responded to on Friday.

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