The centuries-long hunt for the remains of famed ship the Endeavour - the vessel used by James Cook on a voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand - could be nearing an end.

A team of marine archaeologists from Australia and the United States have said they believe they may have found the site where the vessel was scuttled in 1778.

"Early indications are that the team has narrowed the possible site for the wreck of HMB Endeavour to one site, which is very promising," said Kevin Sumption, head of the Australian National Maritime Museum.

That site is in Newport Harbour in the US state of Rhode Island.

"A lot more detailed work, analysis and research has to happen before we can definitively say we have found the remains of James Cook's HMB Endeavour," Mr Sumption cautioned.

The Endeavour has entered popular lore thanks to Cook's voyages, which brought the British into contact with New Zealand and eastern Australia and foreshadowed the colonisation of the continent.

Today a replica of the cramped and surprisingly small vessel sits in Sydney's Darling Harbour, as a reminder of a pivotal point in the history of modern Australia.

After being used by Cook the Endeavour was decommissioned and sold to a commercial owner.

It was scuttled with 12 other vessels in Newport Harbour during the American War of Independence in 1778, but the remains have never been found.

Almost since it was sunk a series of expeditions have sought to find the ship or relics from it.