Is wreck the latest twist to tale of Sir Joseph Banks?

Sir Jospeph Banks with the Endeavour in the background. The plant is Streliitzia - one of the many he brought back from the voyage EMN-160405-180709001

Sir Jospeph Banks with the Endeavour in the background. The plant is Streliitzia - one of the many he brought back from the voyage EMN-160405-180709001

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The deep waters off America’s Atlantic coast could provide the latest twist to the saga of Horncastle’s most famous resident.

Marine archaeologists say they are ‘at least 80 per cent certain’ that the remains of a ship discovered in Rhode Island’s Newport Harbour is the wreckage of ‘Endeavour’.

It is the British vessel which carried Captain James Cook and Horncastle’s Sir Joseph Banks on their historic voyage to the South Sea Islands in 1768.

The voyage completely transformed Banks’ life and established him as one of Britain’s greatest ever botanists.

At the time, there were 6,000 species of plants recorded. Banks discovered another 1,300 on that one trip which also led to large parts of Australia being ‘mapped’ for the first time.

Paul Scott, a director of the Sir Joseph Banks Society, said members were ‘waiting with interest’ for confirmation that the wreck is Endeavour.

And Mr Scott - a leading figure in the bid to gain greater recognition for the importance of Banks - revealed some fascinating facts about the voyage.

According to Mr Scott, Banks financed much of the history-making trip - paying more than King George III.

Mr Scott said: “At the time, Banks was a leading figure in the very influential Royal Society.

“He always wanted to travel to the South Seas and essentially the voyage was arranged to study an eclipse of the planet Venus.

“However, the King had also issued secret orders which involved Endeavour sailing on to Australia, New Zealand and South Sea Islands like Tahiti - all largely undiscovered back then.

“Only Captain Cook and Banks knew about those secret orders.

“It’s those orders that led to the discovery of so many things - and enabled Banks to go on and complete so much in the remainder of his life.

“Without his support, that voyage would never have taken place.

“That’s why we are interested in whether it is the Endeavour. It is a fascinating story.”

It was initially thought the ship had been scuttled after the British lost a key battle in the American War of Independence.

There are unconfirmed reports the ship was sold to the French. It’s also alleged a retired Navy officer was providing guided tours of ‘Endeavour on the Thames in the mid-1800s.