Americans may have discovered Australia before Captain Cook

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Sydney, November 30 (ANI): An expedition is all set to go on a journey to find the remains of a shipwreck near the coast of Queensland that they believe may lead to the finding that American whalers may have discovered the nation of Australia before Captain Cook.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, a team of maritime archaeologists, divers and marine scientists, will lead the expedition.

The expedition leader, Kieran Hosty, describes the 200-year-old mystery of Wreck Reef as one of the great untold sagas of Australia's maritime history.

The story began in 1803, after Matthew Flinders had completed his epic circumnavigation of Australia and was returning to England on the HMS Porpoise, a 10-gun sloop under the command of Lieutenant Robert Fowler.

The ship was travelling in convoy, accompanied by Cato, an armed cargo ship, and Bridgewater, a cargo ship owned by the East India Company.

But, disaster struck close to midnight on August 17 when Porpoise hit an uncharted reef in the dark. Fowler ordered a cannon to be fired to warn the other ships.

In the confusion, Cato and Bridgewater were heading for a catastrophic collision until Captain Park, on the Cato, changed course, even though that meant hitting the reef about 400 metres from the Porpoise.

To his shame, the captain of the Bridgewater made no effort to rescue the two shipwrecked crews, ignominiously sailing on to India.

Flinders and Fowler stayed on board the Porpoise that night, rescuing those still in the water.

But on the treeless sand island itself, other crew members made a startling discovery, in the form of the timber remains of a previous wreck.

Sadly for science, they immediately burnt the timber as firewood.

But, Hosty said that the master's mate and a ship's carpenter, both expert witnesses with an intimate knowledge of marine technology, said that the timber came from the stern of a 400-ton, sturdily built ship.

"It had clearly been on the reef a long time," he added.

According to Hosty, the wreckage can't be the remains of a Dutch ship as they confined themselves to Australia's west and north coast.

It could possibly the Portuguese, or the Spanish who had settled Espiritu Santo, part of modern day Vanuatu, in 1606, he said.

Also, it might have been British, though no suitable ship is recorded missing, he added.

"'I think it is most likely to have been American. There were certainly American whalers in that area around that time," Hosty concluded. (ANI)

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