Researchers say they’re closing in on Captain Cook’s ship

In this April 17, 2005, file photo, the replica of the ship, the Endeavour, lies at anchor after it was removed from a sandbar in Botany Bay, Sydney. (AP)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Researchers believe the ship that legendary explorer Captain James Cook used to sail around the world is still submerged somewhere in Rhode Island’s Newport Harbor.

The Endeavour was part of a fleet of 13 ships the British scuttled during the Revolutionary War in 1778 to blockade the port. The roughly 100-foot vessel had been listed in records under a different name, the Lord Sandwich.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, which is leading the search effort, recently used a grant from the Australian National Maritime Museum to locate documents in London identifying the groups of ships in that fleet and where each was scuttled.

The nonprofit thinks the Endeavour is part of a group of five sunken wrecks.

It already has mapped nine sites in the harbor, including four of the five sites in that group.

It’s announcing plans on Wednesday to investigate the fifth shipwreck this year.

Cook used the Endeavour to claim Australia for the British during his historic 1768-71 voyage.

In 2014, the Australian National Maritime Museum signed an agreement to help the Rhode Island group find the lost vessel.

“To be able to find the last resting place of the Endeavour would truly be a nationally significant event, if not internationally,” Kevin Sumption said at the time.

Sumption is the director of the Australian museum, which features a replica of the Endeavour. The museum hopes to locate the wreck in time for the 250th anniversary celebrations of Cook’s voyage.