A team of US researchers believe they have narrowed down the search for the wreck of Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour to a group of five ships in a Rhode Island harbour, but it is unclear if any artefacts would ever make their way to Australia.
The remains of the ship the British explorer used for his voyage to Australia, supposedly uncovered in Newport Harbour, legally belong to the state of Rhode Island.
US archaeologists from the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) will work with the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney to confirm the remains of a ship found in the harbour belong to the HMS Endeavour.
They knew Endeavour was likely to be one of 13 ships scuttled in 1778 by the British navy in order to blockade a channel during the American Revolution.
The research team, headed by marine archaeologist Kathy Abbass, uncovered new documents from the UK which allowed them to narrow down the location of the Endeavour in a 500-by-500-metre area.
The marine archaeologists believe five ships are in that section of the harbour. The team has already mapped four of the wreck sites.
"We have one more year to do of this kind of preliminary work," Dr Abbass said. "But to figure out which ones are which means we have got to do excavation." Australian National Maritime Museum maritime archaeologist Kieran Hosty said experts dived the area in September after using a site scan sonar, but the water was extremely murky.
He predicted 10 to 15 per cent of the hull remained.