Captain Cook's Endeavour Is Being Wrecked Again

This time apparently by shipworms, the so-called 'termites of the ocean'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2022 3:00 AM CDT
'Termites of the Ocean' May Be Eating the Wreck of Captain Cook's Endeavour
This 2007 photo provided by the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney shows a modern replica of the HMB Endeavour at sail.   (AP Photo/Australian National Maritime Museum)

The shipwreck in Rhode Island's Newport Harbor that is believed by many to be that of Captain Cook's HMB Endeavour is reportedly in rough shape. Marine biologist Reuben Shipway, who is an expert on shipworms (the so-called "termites of the ocean"), tells the Boston Globe he saw telltale signs of shipworm damage when he dove to view the wreck. The worm-like mollusks are eating the wood, says Shipway, who flew out from England to view what little is left of the ship: just 10% to 15%, with the rest possibly eaten by shipworms or scattered and lost. "One of the most important wrecks in human history is being destroyed right underneath our noses," says Shipway. A type of crustacean known as gribbles are also eating away at the wood, he says.

He says resources and funding must be marshaled immediately to preserve the site. Raising the rest of the wreck is not feasible, due to expense as well as the concern that the rest of the ship could be harmed, and the shipworms cannot be eradicated, because they play an important role in the ecosystem. Most of the wreck is covered in sediment, and thus safe from shipworms, but sediments shift over time—more so during storms—so there's no guarantee even the buried portion of the ship is safe forever, Shipway says. Read his full interview at the Globe. (More Endeavour stories.)

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