Author Archives: danielpetraccaro

The Cultural Maritime Landscape of Ramsey Bay, Hinchinbrook Island

By Daniel Petraccaro, Master of Maritime Archaeology Student (Flinders University)

Introduction

The maritime archaeology fieldwork on Hinchinbrook Island (figure one) was conducted by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) with the grateful support of the Hinchinbrook National Park. The aim was to locate, identify and record the maritime heritage sites on and around Hinchinbrook Island. This blog will discuss two sites investigated: The wreck of Belle in Ramsay Bay (figure one; figure two) and a nearby concentration of possible ships’ fittings to the south of Belle. Masters students and staff from the Flinders University Archaeology Department were lucky enough to assist DEHP with the recording and interpretation of maritime archaeological sites on the island.

hinchinbrook map. dp.

Figure One: Map of Hinchinbrook Island and Location of Belle in Ramsey Bay. Google Earth.

IMAG0514

Figure two: Belle after Cyclone Yasi in 2011. http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/article/2011/09/03/263161_news.html. Accessed 25/07/13.

Using the archaeological results of the fieldwork, I will discuss in this blog how the sites investigated at Ramsey Bay are interconnected within the concept of a maritime cultural landscape. I will also hopefully show how human behaviour and the natural landscape play a part in the maritime setting. The maritime cultural landscape signifies human utilisation (economy) of maritime space: boats, settlement, fishing, hunting and shipping (Westerdahl 1992: 5).

Background: Hinchinbrook Island

Hinchinbrook Island is the perfect tropical paradise. The island is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and protected within the Hinchinbrook Island National Park. Hinchinbrook Island is eight kilometres east from the Queensland coast at Cardwell (figure three). Spectacular natural vegetation includes mangroves, scrublands and tropical rainforests. Sandy isolated beaches and the view from the prestige coastline are breathtaking! If you are interesting in visiting the island, the only way to access Hinchinbrook Island is using shipping transport launched from Cardwell or Lucinda; if you are prone to seasickness, I suggest you bring some medication along!

DSCN7766[1]

Figure three: Sunrise at Cardwell. Hinchinbrook Island in the distance. Photo courtesy of Daniel Petraccaro

Historical Background: Hinchinbrook Island    

I found most of the historical research on Hinchinbrook Island in Douglass Barrie’s book: Minding My Business; an interesting read. Hinchinbrook Island contains natural resources extracted by European Australians from the 1850s until the early 1930s. Cedar oak, a valuable hardy timber, was logged during the 1850s (Barrie 2003: 120). Shell middens were also mined during the 1860s and processed into lime (Barrie 2003: 121). The lack of jetty structures, the isolated conditions of the island, and shallow bays (figure four) made for difficult access, which in turn prevented the further development of these industries. Sugar plantations were also established on the island during the late 1800s but were abandoned due to seasonal cyclone damage and gale force winds (Barrie 2003: 121 – 123).

DSCN7770[1]

Figure four: Flat tidal zone ( tide is out) at Ramsey Bay. Photo courtesy of Daniel Petraccaro

The Hinchinbrook Channel was also an important shipping route from the 1850s until the early 1900s (Barrie 2003: 114, 117, 124). The 22 kilometre channel separates the mainland from the island (figure one). The channel was an important trading route for vessels shipping cedar from the great forests in Cairns and Atherton to Melbourne and Sydney (North Queensland Register 1900: 31). The Hinchinbrook Channel was also an important route, as much of the surrounding Great Barrier Reef was uncharted and exposed by strong winds and waves.

The Shipwreck Sequence at Ramsey Bay, Hinchinbrook Island

Ramsey Bay was of interest to this field study due to historical accounts of four ships known to have wrecked while attempting to retrieve a cargo of cedar washed up on shore after the Merchant wrecked on the 5th March 1878 (North Queensland Register 1900: 31). Merchant was a steamer built in the USA in 1862. While Merchant was en route to Melbourne from Port Douglas, the ship hit a reef and vanished. The exact wreckage location of Merchant was never found. Once reports reached Cardwell of the cedar logs washing up in Ramsey Bay, the Harriet Armitage (Barque) was sent to retrieve the cargo (North Queensland Register: 1900: 31). The cedar was considered more valuable than the lives sent on the salvage mission (Barrie 2003: 111). Despite the efforts of Harriet Armitage, gale winds in Ramsey Bay caused the ship to run ashore and wreck in July 1879. Three other ships followed Harriet Armitage, unfortunately, strong gales caused all three ships to wreck in Ramsey Bay. Charlotte Andrews (Barque) wrecked in October 1879, Rebecca Jane (Brigantine) wrecked in July 1880 and Belle (figure two; figure five) (Brigantine) wrecked in February 1880 (Morning Bulletin 1925: 5). The cedar was eventually salvaged by a fifth shipping vessel and sold at auction in Townsville (Morning Bulletin 1925: 5).

The Natural Landscape at Ramsey Bay, Hinchinbrook Island

The natural landscape played a crucial role in the wreckage sequence and process at Ramsey Bay. While Merchant struck a reef hundreds of kilometres away, winds and strong surf caused the cargo to drift until it finally beached at Ramsey Bay.  One survivor from the Harriet Armitage noted the tremendous surf on the beach and claimed the wind and sea rose extremely rapidly (North Queensland Register 1900: 31). Without any jetty infrastructures, the shallow waters also proved to be a difficult task for ships trying to reach Ramsey Bay, the only logical access point for the vessels trying to retrieve cargo washed onto shore. Ramsey Bay is naturally encompassed by mangrove forests to the north-east and south (figure one; figure five), which is impossible to travel through by foot or sailing vessel.

ramsey bay arial

Figure five: Ramsey Bay showing the location of Belle and southern artefact concentration. Google Earth.

The Maritime Cultural Landscape at Ramsey Bay

You would be surprised to hear of the amount of rubbish washed up on Ramsey Bay. The dunes were littered with bottles, plastic, iron drums, wood and the largest variety of thongs I have ever seen. While one might only see rubbish, I saw a landscape and a deposition event that has occurred within the bay for the past 150 years. It was an interesting task rummaging through the rubbish hoping to find the remains of a wreck! No luck, however. Similar to how the rubbish had washed up on  shore, it is easy to forget the cargo of cedar timber followed the same pattern when it washed up in Ramsey Bay in 1878.

It is also interesting to note that Cyclone Yasi in 2011 (figure six) drastically altered the maritime landscape. The cyclone caused a drastic change in the sand dune, exposing the wreckage of Belle (figure two) (Waterson 2012) and a site called ‘Southern Artefact Concentration’, located eight-hundred and fifty meters south from Belle. However, during the current fieldwork, shifting dune sands had covered most of Belle and the remains of ‘Southern Artefact Concentration’ under a minimum of 10 cm of sand, suggesting the sand dune has recovered since the cyclone two years ago. The remains of Belle identified during previous surveys include the frames, metal brackets and windlass (Waterson 2012). Iron cable was also identified west of the ship’s bow. During the current fieldwork, the remains of iron bolts, rods and mast caps (courtesy of Paddy Waterson who helped with the identification) (figure seven; figure eight) were identified within the upper tidal zone and sand dune at ‘Southern Artefact Concentration.’

yasi

Figure six: Path of cyclone Yasi in 2011. bom.gov.com.au. Accessed 25/07/13.

Discussion: The Maritime Landscape at Ramsey Bay, Hinchinbrook Island

The results of both Belle and the ‘Southern Artefact Concentration’ suggest there is evidence of interaction between the sea and the wreckage history of shipping vessels at Ramsey Bay. The identification of Belle within the tidal zone at Ramsey Bay supports the theory that strong winds and surf caused the ship to wreck. One newspaper article states that Belle, when fully loaded, parted her cables and drifted ‘whole’ onto the beach (Morning Bulletin 1925: 5). The location of the cables east of Belle were identified during the study and therefore conform to the historical accounts regarding how the ship wrecked. Furthermore, the lack of any remains from Belle conforms to historical accounts that the cargo was eventually salvaged. The mast caps identified from  ‘Southern Artefact Concentration’  are from either Belle or another wreck (figure seven; figure eight). The results support the theory that remains such as  wood and other cargo was salvaged, while the mast caps and another other iron items were left behind.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Figure seven: (LEFT) Mast Caps from ‘Southern Artefact Concentration’. Photo Courtesy of Paddy Waterson.
Figure eight: (RIGHT): Mast caps. (Paasch 1890: plate 93).

The natural landscape could aid in identifying the possible location of the other known wrecks in Ramsey Bay. Belle was known to have wrecked during strong gale winds so there is no surprise the ship ended up stranded in the tidal zone (figure five). The three other wrecks known to have wrecked in Ramsey Bay are also most likely to be located in the tidal zone. The three other ships all were wrecked during strong winds while trying to salvage timber. They are most likely to be located within the same vicinity as Belle. These wrecks are also likely to be salvaged and therefore few archaeological remains would be present.

Summary: The Cultural Maritime Landscape of Ramsey Bay

The sea and the maritime cultural landscape of Hinchinbrook Island have influenced the economic development and wrecking process of shiping vessels at Ramsey Bay. Merchant wrecked while attempting to travel from Cairns to Melbourne following charted trading routes and the Hinchinbrook Channel. It is clear that the sites and shipwrecks identified at Ramsey Bay have resulted from salvage events, commencing with the cedar timber cargo from Merchant. The only way to salvage cargo at Ramsey Bay is via ship. However, the shallow coastline, gale winds and tides at Ramsey Bay caused the wreckage of four ships. The cedar and the shipwrecks were eventually salvaged. Items with little monetary value, such as iron, were left behind. Therefore, when examining a maritime landscape, it is important to include all factors relating to, and influencing, the maritime activity within an area. Overall, this type of archaeological investigation shows how human behaviour and natural landscapes play an important part in the maritime setting. In summary, I hope you have all learnt something about the cultural maritime landscape history of Ramsey Bay!

Acknowledgements

A special thanks to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) for allowing the Flinders students to participate in the fieldwork, and, the Hinchinbrook National Park for granting access. A warm thanks goes out to Paddy Waterson (DEHP), Amelia Lacey (DEHP) and Ed Slaughter (Queensland Museum).

References

Barrie, Douglas 2003.  Minding my Business: The History of Bemerside and the Lower Herbert River District of North Queensland Australia. S and D Barrie, Ingham, Queensland.

Morning Bulletin 1929. http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/54641887. Accessed 22/07/2013.

North Queensland Register 1900. http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/82342975. Accessed 22/07/2013.

Paasch, Hermann 1890. Illustrated Marine Encyclopedia. Argus Books, England.

Waterson, Paddy 2012. Shipwreck Heritage: The Belle. Unpublished powerpoint report. QEHP, Queensland.

Westerdahl, Christer 1992. The maritime cultural landscape. The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 21(1):5-14.

From Ship to Shore to Hawthorn: Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Field School, 2013.

Figure One: Group photo in Port MacDonnell, SA. Photo taken by Nita von Stanke. 16/02/13.

By Daniel Petraccaro, Masters in Maritime Archaeology Student Flinders University.

Introduction

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).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Figure Two: Students Daniel Petraccaro and Hunter Brendel with Supervisor Gay Lascina start mapping the ketch Hawthorn. Photo by Chelsa Pasch. 06.02.13.

Continue reading

Developing A Guide for Recording and Conserving Aboriginal Heritage Sites in South Australia.

Hello everyone!

I am currently undertaking a practicum with the Aboriginal Heritage Branch of the Aboriginal Affairs Reconciliation Division (AARD) of South Australia. For those who do not know, the Heritage Branch is designed to improve administration and to ensure compliance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act (1988).

Within this blog, I am going to share with you some more of my experiences while working with AARD.  This practicum is the first time I have been actively involved with a government department who are in charge of the management of Indigenous cultural heritage sites in South Australia. Initially, I was not sure of what to expect from the practicum but I was assured the experiences obtained would be worthwhile.

One of my projects is to re-write a guide for recording and conserving Aboriginal heritage sites in South Australia., The guide is for the use of Aboriginal people and others interested in conducting archaeological site recording. The objective of this guide is to provide the necessary information about archaeological site identification, site recording and site management.

The guide I have compiled is an 81 page report consisting of a number of in-depth and captivating chapters complimented by images. The importance of why heritage sites should be recorded is the first section of this guide. The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988, basic site recording, stone tools and how to use site cards are later addressed. The last part of the guide includes information on the conservation of sites, interpreting landscapes and how to access information held in the Central Archive by the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division – DPC (AARD) as required by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 (the Act). A glossary, further readings and blank ‘A’ and ‘B’ site cards are also present at the end of the report. Copies of the report: A Guide for Recording and Conserving Aboriginal Heritage Sites in South Australia will soon be available through the Aboriginal Heritage Branch.

If anyone is also interested in reading or creating a guide for recording Indigenous sites in Australia, check out the following links:

QUEENSLAND Department of Environment and Resource Management

http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/cultural_heritage/search_request/accessing_data_guidelines.html

http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/cultural_heritage/legislation/cultural_heritage_studies_guidelines.html

WESTERN AUSTRALIA Department of Indigenous Affairs

http://www.dia.wa.gov.au/en/Heritage-and-Culture/

VICTORIA Department of Planning and Community Development

http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/indigenous/heritage-tools/guides-and-forms

NEW SOUTH WALES Department of Environment and Heritage

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/chresearch/ResearchThemeConservationToolsAndTechniques.htm

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/cultureheritage/landholderNotes11CulturalHeritage.pdf

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nswcultureheritage/LostButNotForgotten.htm

Also, remember to read Burke and Smith (2004) The Archaeologist’s Field Handbook. This publication is a detailed guide for surveying and recording Aboriginal cultural heritage places and other archaeological sites

By Daniel Petraccaro (Master of Archaeology student).

Yappala Field School

Hello everyone!

I have been undertaking a practicum with AARD over the past few weeks. This blog will outine the recent field school run by myself and staff at Hawker SA.

The Heritage Conservation Team from the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division Aboriginal Heritage Branch has developed site recording and conservation workshops to provide Aboriginal people with the skills to undertake basic site recording and site conservation projects for themselves. The skills and understanding gained in these workshops enables the participants to be better informed about the operations of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 and the need for good site recording. On site training enables them to record, plan and to conserve sites of significance and to negotiate with greater confidence with other stakeholders.

The workshop at Hawker was run over four days and included indoor and outdoor sessions. The indoor sessions included presentations on the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988, stone tool identification, rock art recording, how to find a Grid reference, how to use a GPS and how to identify and record a range of different archaeological sites (scarred trees, knapping sites, burials and rock art) (FIGURE 1).

FIGURE ONE: Induction class at Hawker.  Daniel Petraccaro assisting participants Ernestine Coulthard, Christina Coulthard and Karl McKenzie with map reading.

During the outdoor sessions, participants worked in groups and practiced site recording of an archaeological site at Hookina Spring (FIGURE 2 and 3). All participants were encouraged to use the GPS, to draw site mud maps and also filled out an archaeological site card, which included the site contents and site condition. We all then discussed the processes for recording cultural sites and for drafting site conservation management plans.

FIGURE TWO: Daniel Petraccaro with Ernestine Coulthard, Christina Coulthard, Karl McKenzie and Gila McKenzie at Hookina Spring.

FIGURE THREE: Daniel Petraccaro with Veronon Coulthard at Hookina Spring.

In summary, the field at Hawker achieved the aims presented. All the participants learnt how to undertake basic site recording. The perfect weather also made the field school a more enjoyable experience for everyone!

Thanks for reading and stay in tune for my next blog!

By Daniel Petraccaro (Masters in Archaeology student).

Yourambulla Caves Rock Art Trail: Natural vs. Human Intervention

The Yourambulla Caves are an Indigenous rock art site located 13 kilometres south-west from the town of Hawker within the southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia. Yourambulla is a name that is derived from the words ‘yura bila’, which means two men in the language of the Andyamathana people, the traditional owners of this region. The cave paintings are made from manganese, charcoal, red ochre and white ochre. Figures include animal tracks (emu and kangaroo), hand stencils, human figures, camps and ceremonial depictions (FIGURE ONE).

FIGURE ONE: Rock art at Yourambulla Cave One. Photo by Daniel Petraccaro.

The Yourambulla caves are one of the most accessible rock art sites within the Flinders Ranges, attracting hundreds of tourists every year. The Yourambulla Caves trail was constructed in 1995 by member of the Iga Warta Aboriginal Corporation and the Bungala Aboriginal Corporation. The project was funded by the Department of State Aboriginal Affairs, Environment Australia, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and from Commercial Minerals. The Yourambulla cave trail encompasses three rock shelter sites within a radius of one kilometre. A path has been carved allowing access, while interpretation signs are also present to enhance the visitor’s experience.

There are a number of natural processes affecting the rock art at the Yourambulla caves. The rock art at Yourambulla Cave One is suffering from water damage (see FIGURE ONE). Water is seeping through a crack in the overhang and trickling over the art. The area of rock art affected by the water exposure is significantly faded compared to the rest of the site. There is also are a number of old wasp nests on the rock face at all three overhang sites. The wasp nests appear to have been destroyed but not completely removed.

The barriers around the rock shelter sites were established to protect the sites from animals and human interferences (FIGURE TWO). The barrier around Yourambulla Cave Three, in particular, is in very poor condition. The base is eroding out of the sediment (FIGURE THREE) and the top bars have been intentionally bent back. While the barriers have been successful in keeping feral goats and kangaroos out of the shelter, it has not prevented humans from drawing graffiti on the site. Graffiti is present at all three rock shelter sites. The graffiti is either in the form of imitation Aboriginal art or in the form of human figures (FIGURE FOUR). The graffiti is drawn with white chalk or scratched on the rock surface. The staircase leading to Yourambulla Cave One has some nails missing and there are cracks in the wooden planks. It is recommended that visitors are not to use the staircase until repairs have been done.

FIGURE TWO: Eroded fence post at Yourambulla Cave Three. Photo by Daniel Petraccaro

FIGURE THREE: Fence cage at Yourambulla Cave Three. Photo by Daniel Petraccaro.

FIGURE FOUR: Graffiti at Yourambulla Cave Two. Photo by Daniel Petraccaro.

There has been no management plan established for the Yourambulla Caves determining who is responsible for the long term management of the site. Pastoral leases and tourism companies develop rock art trails in the Flinders Ranges for financial gain. However, neither party really understands about the long term management and conservation issues of these sites. Neither the land owners nor the tourist groups contribute to the management of the site.

The failure of site management has resulted in a number of conservation and liability issues. The graffiti needs to be removed to prevent encouragement from the public to vandalise the site. The barrier around Yourambulla Cave Three also requires significant repair. Further, this site needs to be monitored in another few years to determine whether the area of water damage over Yourambulla Cave One is expanding or receding. The Yourambulla Caves should have a management plan detailing relevant stakeholders who should be contributing funding to the management of the site.

By Daniel Petraccaro (Masters in Archaeology Student)