THE mystery surrounding the fate of the ship that James Cook commanded on his first voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand appears to have been solved, after researchers claimed to have pinpointed its whereabouts.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project will announce on Wednesday that it is 80 to 100 per cent sure the remains of the celebrated North Yorkshire explorer's ship HMS Endeavour are off the US state's coast.

They believe HMS Endeavour, which was built in Whitby and designed to carry coal from the North East to London, is among 13 ships that were deliberately sunk off the coast of Rhode Island during the American Revolutionary War.

They hope to raise the 97ft-long vessel from "fairly shallow waters", almost 238 years after it was scuttled by British soldiers, for further study, but its immediate aim is to build a facility to store, examine, and conserve, artefacts brought to the surface and study each ship's structure.

The project used documents in London to map and then analyse nine sites at the bottom of Newport Harbor where vessels were sunk leading up to the August 1778 Battle of Rhode Island.

A project spokesman said: “One group of five ships included the Lord Sandwich transport, formerly Captain James Cook's Endeavour Bark."

Cook commanded the HMS Endeavour from 1768 to 1771, during a voyage in which he made Europeans’ first contact with people on the east coast of Australia, Hawaii and circumnavigated New Zealand.

The voyage also saw Cook, who was born in Marton in 1728 before moving to Thornaby, Great Ayton, Staithes and Whitby, map the southwest Pacific Ocean and claim Australia for the Crown.

During its journey to Tahiti, the HMS Endeavour foundered on the Great Barrier Reef in 1770, forcing the crew to throw 40 tons of equipment overboard to break free of the reef.

The ship, a scaled-down replica of which is berthed in Whitby, was later christened Lord Sandwich and commissioned for use in the Revolutionary War, to keep the French out of a harbour.

History professor Iain McCalman said the marks left by the captain and the HMS Endeavour on history were incredible.

“Whatever you think of Cook, he sailed that boat, which, as far as I was concerned, was almost unsailable, into what amounts to a kind of minefield of coral without having any charts, and it was absolutely extraordinary.”