By Daniel Petraccaro, Masters in Maritime Archaeology Student Flinders University.
Nothing can compare to the field school experience offered this year to the graduates enrolled in the Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Programme. The Maritime Archaeology field school was based at Port MacDonnell, in South Australia’s Southeast region, and was held from the 3rd to 16th of February. The rigorous two-week program offered students an introduction to techniques from underwater surveying, mapping, and photography to recording (figure 2).
The students were also luckily provided with an introduction of a range of equipment including the total station, side scan sonar and metal detector (figure three), as well as recording skills for anchors and canons. This year, the participants recorded two shipwrecks; the Tasmanian constructed ketch Hawthorn, which ran aground in 1949, and a possible Couta boat, labelled the ‘Bungalow Bay Wreck’, believed to be Margaret Rose. All thanks to 15-year-old maritime archaeology enthusiast Carl von Stanke of Mount Gambier. Carl and his father, Garry von Stanke, who have a strong maritime family history in the region, brought the attention of both wrecks to Senior Lecturer Jennifer McKinnon of Flinders University.
Week One: Hawthorn
Eighteen students and supervisors departed Flinders University on a mini bus accompanied by two other vehicles and a boat in tow on Sunday the 3rd of February, 2013. Eight hours later they arrived at their destination: Port MacDonnell.
The Hawthorn wreck was quickly located by the students on the fist field day. The Hawthorn wreckage is located within one to three meters of shallow waters at Bucks Bay, Carpenter Rocks, 28km north of Port MacDonnell. Hawthorn was built in 1875 on the Huon River, in Franklin, Tasmania to the dimensions of L 67’ (20.42m) x B 19.2’ (5.82m) x D 7’ (2.13m) and 54 tons (Marine Underwater and Salvage Association of Victoria Ltd: 1876). Hawthorn was built with a single deck, a round stern, two masts a carvel built hull made from blue gum with Huon pine topside (Launceston Examiner 1975: 2; Hobart Mercury 1875: 2). The insurance register of 1919 shows a 40hp aux engine had been installed (Parsons 2005: 51). It was in early February of 1876 that the ketch was sold to Mr. G. Foulis, of Adelaide (Hobart Mercury 1876: 2). Hawthorn spent the next 60 years as a trading vessel in South Australia’s ‘mosquito fleet’. Hawthorn finally ceased operation as a trading vessel in 1948 after the ketch was bought by Carpenter Rocks local Fred von Stanke in 1947. The ketch intended to serve in von Stanke’s personal fishing fleet which operated out of Bucks Bay, Carpenter Rocks. Hawthorn was wrecked in February 1949 after only six trips to sea; a violent storm caused Hawthorn to pull anchor and run aground (Garry von Stanke: pers. comm. 09.02.2013.) (figure four).
The students and supervisors were able to demonstrate their SCUBA and snorkelling skills during their first week while they recorded Hawthorn’s remains. The starboard framing and planking, centreboard (figure five), port side framing, detached planks, an engine (figure six), winch and chain (seven), sea cock and fly wheel were all exposed and ready for recording, which the students did instantly.
Wood samples were taken from the centreboard, planking, treenails, framing and ceiling plank (figure eight). The wood samples will hopefully provide answers to which wood species were used in the construction of the ketch and whether the wood derived from local or imported tree species. The week did not end on a high note however. The wind thwarted every attempt to dive in the shallow water thus forcing the team of archaeologists to abandon the Hawthorn site. Overall, during the first week, the students were afforded a real opportunity to experience the working world of underwater archaeologists!
When deciding whether to completely abandon working on Hawthorn or to endure the rough conditions, we were informed by Carl von Stanke that another unknown wreck lie in Bungalow Bay at Pelican Point, just a few kilometres south from Carpenter Rocks. The bay was protected from the winds and rough sea conditions that made it difficult to work on Hawthorn. Gary von Stanke provided information regarding an “old fishing boat,” which was a Couta (figure nine) that sank in Bungalow Bay in 1960. The Couta was believed to be owned by a local, Sam McPhail, and constructed using clinker built in the late 1880s. The wreck was found early last year by Carl von Stanke while snorkelling within the bay (Garry von Stanke: pers. comm. 09.02.13)
Week Two: The Bungalow Bay Wreck
The recording of the Bungalow Bay Wreck began on Monday, the 11th of February, by one half of the students while the other half learned to record cannons, anchors and draw wooden fragments, all located within the Port MacDonnell area. After two days the teams swapped, making sure everyone had an opportunity to work on the wreck and learn important recording techniques.
The wreck itself is located approximately 100 meters off the beach in approximately two to three meters of water. The site was accessed by a shallow swim. A small area around the main section of the wreck was quickly identified and four datum markers were emplaced from which all of the features of the site were measured using trilateration. The wreck was photographed in situ with scales and north arrows, and then identifiable details on the features were measured and recorded. A site plan was finally drawn up from the data collected.
Features of the Couta include a centreboard and centreboard trunk, frames (figure 10), planking and a deck knee. Copper fastenings were identified on the wreck and hold the framing and the planking (figure 11). Overall, the amazing visibility and calm waters enabled students and supervisors alike to work on technical SCUBA skills. Some teams were even lucky enough to have the opportunity to undertake a total of three one hour dives in a given day!
Carvel or Clinker? Your call!
There is some planking visible on the north side of the keelson. The planking along the gunwale appears to be clinker construction (figure 12) however the remaining planking appears to be carvel constructed (figure 13). The planks measure approximately 51cm long and 14 cm wide. There have been some heated debates over the construction technique of the vessel; which still remains indeterminate.
The final week of diving ended on a high note, thanks to the weather being extremely cooperative for any type of archaeology and the perseverance of the students and staff of the field school. The last two days of the week were spent writing up the two reports; one for Hawthorn and another for the Bungalow Bay Wreck. Findings from the students’ two weeks of data collection and analysis will be compiled into a report by the school supervisors and sent to the Commonwealth Shipwrecks Program who issues a permit to investigate the Hawthorn wreck. Additionally, my Master’s thesis will encompass the results from the field school and from the wood samples collected from Hawthorn in an effort to better understand the wreck and Australian shipbuilding. Thanks to the von Stanke family and all the staff and supervisors for making this a fantastic experience for all the students!
Edited by Chelsea Pasch and Jennifer McKinnon.
Hobart Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania: 1860 – 1954). National Library of Australia. Friday 17th December 1875: 2. URL: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/8941797.
Hobart Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania: 1860 – 1954). National Library of Australia. Monday 07 February 1876: 2. URL: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/8942909.
Launceston Examiner (Tasmania: 1842- 1899).. Thursday 4th November: 2. URL: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52902245.
Marine Underwater and Salvage Association of Victoria Ltd, Register of Australian and New Zealand shipping. 1876. Melbourne).
Parsons, Ronald. 2005. Ketches of South Australia, 2005. From original by John Ford. Ronald Parsons Australian Maritime Historical Society. Murray Bridge SA
von Stanke, Garry. February 2013. Personal Communication.