Australia

Caution urged over Capt Cook's ship find

A replica of the Endeavour, as researchers close in on finding the wreckage of the real thing. (AAP)

Marine archaeologists are closing in on finding the British Royal Navy ship commanded by Captain Cook on his first voyage but experts say it's still early days.

Maritime historians have urged caution over the discovery of a wreck marine archaeologists believe may be the ship Captain Cook took to Australia and the South Pacific almost 250 years ago.

Australian and US experts say they could have found the HMB Endeavour's wreck just off a small island called Goat Island in Newport Harbour on America's east coast.

The wreck's dimensions are close to those of the famous ship Captain James Cook sailed into Botany Bay in 1770.

But Australian National Maritime Museum director Kevin Sumption says although the team has narrowed the possible site for the wreck of the Endeavour from 12 down to one site, it's very early days.

"There is still a lot more detailed work, analysis and research that has to happen before we can definitively say we have found the remains of James Cook's HMB Endeavour," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

The discovery comes 25 years after the search for the former British Royal Navy vessel began.

Wood samples will be carefully collected from the wreck and taken back to a Sydney laboratory for testing.

"If the analysis shows that it's American timber then it's likely not Endeavour, if it shows that its UK timbers then that helps make it closer to being the Endeavour," ANMM spokeswoman Shirani Aththas said.

Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project founder Dr Kathy Abbass came across historical documents in London that guided her team to the general area in Newport Harbour.

They believe the Endeavour, which was renamed Lord Sandwich, was deliberately sunk by the British in 1778 during the American War of Independence and that silt may have helped preserve it.

RIMAP and the ANMM will hold a press conference on Friday at Rhode Island where imagery collected during the fieldwork will be released.

It is likely the Endeavour will remain in Rhode Island if it is found.

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