The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project says it has now narrowed down the search for HMS Endeavour to a group of five shipwrecks in Newport Harbor.

Researchers with the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) say they’re close to pinpointing the final resting place of HMS Endeavour.

The ship, which was used by Captain James Cook to sail to Australia in 1768, was one of 13 vessels scuttled in Newport Harbor in 1778 during the American War of Independence.

Following Cook’s voyage, HMS Endeavour was sold into private hands and renamed the Lord Sandwich. The ship was hired as a British troop transport during the revolutionary war.

RIMAP says a grant from the Australian National Maritime Museum has helped its researchers to locate historic documents in London which has identified the Lord Sandwich as one of a group of five ships sunk in Newport Harbor.

Four of the sites have already been mapped. “A recent analysis of remote sensing data suggests that the fifth site may still exist, too,” stated RIMAP.

“That means the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project now has an 80 to 100% chance that the Lord Sandwich is still in Newport Harbor, and because the Lord Sandwich was Capt. Cook’s Endeavour, that means RIMAP has found her, too,” said researchers.

Plans are now underway to study the ships and their related artefacts further.

RIMAP is also trying to raise money to build a facility “to conserve, manage, display, and store the waterlogged material removed from the archaeological sites.”

It is hoped that the possible discovery of “one of the most important shipwrecks in world history” will boost tourism in the state.

“All of the 13 ships lost in Newport during the Revolution are important to American history, but it will be a national celebration in Australia when RIMAP identifies the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour,” said RIMAP in a statement.

HMS Endeavour, also known as HM Bark Endeavour, was originally launched as a coal ship in 1764. The vessel was subsequently bought by the Royal Navy in 1768 for Captain Cook’s scientific mission to the Pacific Ocean, returning to England after nearly three years at sea.

For the next three years, HMS Endeavour sailed to and from the Falkland Islands before being sold into private hands in 1775 and renamed Lord Sandwich.

A replica of the ship was launched in 1994 and has since completed two circumnavigations. It has also visited port in the UK, Europe, South Africa and North America.  The replic is owned by the Australian National Maritime Museum and is berthed alongside the museum in Sydney Harbour.