Marine archaeologists in Rhode Island are looking to raise funds to find out more about a ship at the bottom of Newport Harbor that could be Capt. Cook’s famous HMS Endeavour.

Cook sailed on the Endeavour when he discovered Australia. The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) says that Endeavour, which was renamed Lord Sandwich and used as a troop transport, is one of 13 ships scuttled in Newport Harbor in 1778 during the American Revolution.

RIMAP used a grant from the Australian National Maritime Museum to locate documents in London that identify the groups of ships in the 13-vessel fleet, and where each group was scuttled. One group of five ships included the Lord Sandwich, according to RIMAP, which says it knows the general area of Newport Harbor where the five ships were scuttled and has already mapped four of the sites.

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“With a further review of RIMAP's remote sensing data, there is a promising area where the 5th site might be, and the planned 2016 fieldwork should determine if she exists,” the group explained, in a report posted to its website Wednesday. “So if that 5th site is found, there will have a 100% chance that the Endeavour is still there. If that last one isn't found, then there is still an 80% chance that she exists among the 4 we have already mapped.”

RIMAP, which issued the report following a public meeting in Providence, R.I. to discuss the project, outlined the next stages of its research.

“Next RIMAP will have to do the very expensive work to determine which site is which ship, and possibly determine which one is the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour,” it said, in its statement. “That means comparing the historical materials assembled about each vessel with what is seen in the archaeological sites.”

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RIMAP also needs a lab for managing and analyzing artifacts. “That will be an even bigger expense than the cost of supporting the fieldwork to study the sites,” it said. “So at the same time RIMAP is pursuing its various research investigations, there is also a capital campaign to develop its facility.”

The group acknowledges that raising the vessel will be  particularly costly. “Some have asked if there is a plan to raise the vessel, but that is an even more expensive proposition, not only the technical challenges to get it up and the greater expenses for the preservation, study, and presentation of the object, but whatever planning is done must include the fact that it will be a perpetual responsibility.”

Marine archaeologists have made a number of fascinating finds in recent years. Last year, for example, treasure said to belong to the infamous pirate Captain Kidd was found by divers in the waters of the Indian Ocean off Madagascar.

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Earlier this year the 500-year old wreck of a Portuguese ship piloted by an uncle of explorer Vasco da Gama was found off the coast of Oman.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers