Murky water, major storms and maritime archaeology: Adventures with the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (2017 Field Season)

James Hunter uses a mapping grid to sketch artefacts and features on the 'Caroline Site' during RIMAP's 2017 field investigations. Image: Greg DeAscentis/© RIMAP 2017.

James Hunter uses a mapping grid to sketch artefacts and features on the ‘Caroline Site’ during RIMAP’s 2017 field investigations. Image: Greg DeAscentis/© RIMAP 2017.

This past September, Kieran Hosty and I travelled to Newport, Rhode Island to assist an ongoing effort to archaeologically document eighteenth-century shipwreck sites in the city’s harbour associated with the American War of Independence (1775-1783). We were invited to Newport by Dr Kathy Abbass, Director of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP), an all-volunteer organisation that has been locating, documenting and investigating the maritime cultural heritage of Newport Harbor and its adjacent waterways since the late 1990s. Maritime archaeologists affiliated with the museum have been working with RIMAP since 1999, and a team comprising Kieran Hosty and the museum’s Head of Research, Dr Nigel Erskine, visited Newport as recently as September of last year to assist with the project.

Our interest in RIMAP’s research stems from the investigation of a fleet of British transports scuttled at Newport during the Battle of Rhode Island in August 1778— a story that has already been chronicled in a previous blog by Kieran and an article by Nigel in the scholarly journal The Great Circle. Among these vessels was the Lord Sandwich, a 368-ton bark that attained international recognition under its previous name, HMB Endeavour. Endeavour, of course, is best known for its voyage of exploration between 1768 and 1771 under the command of Lieutenant James Cook, during which it became the first European vessel to reach Australia’s east coast.

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The search for Endeavour – The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project and the Australian National Maritime Museum

The Australian National Maritime Museum's replica of HMB Endeavour. Image: ANMM.

The Australian National Maritime Museum’s replica of HMB Endeavour. Image: ANMM.

 

On 3 May 2016 Dr Kathy Abbass, Project Director from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP), announced that, aided by a grant provided by the Australian National Maritime Museum and some previous research carried out by the museum’s Head of Research Dr Nigel Erskine, she had located a report by a Lieutenant John Knowles, the Agent for Transports at Newport, dated 12 September 1778 at the National Archives in London.

The Knowles report provided a breakdown of where a small fleet of troop transports had been sunk in Newport in August 1778. One of these transports was a 368-ton bark called the Lord Sandwich and it had been sunk, along with four other transports – the Earl of Orford, Yowart, Peggy and Mayflower – between the northern tip of Goat Island and the North Battery in Newport Harbor. Continue reading