Category Archives: Posts from the field

Posts about fieldwork

Tugging at the Heartstrings: ST Yelta, Port Adelaide

By Cassandra Morris

Yelta was built in 1949 by Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co., Sydney for Ritch and Smith, Port Adelaide. Yelta spent its active life guiding vessels in and out of Port Adelaide, making local headlines on more than one occasion. Originally coal fired, the tug was converted to oil in 1957. After a busy life on the Port River, the tug was retired in 1976, purchased by the Port Adelaide branch of the National Trust of South Australia. Left moored outside the CSR Refinery at the ‘Sugar Wharf’, the vessel was left unattended with little maintenance performed for nearly a decade. Put up for sale again, the South Australian Maritime Museum made a bid for the historic vessel and, in 1985, added the tug to their collection as a floating museum. Volunteers were asked for to help restore Yelta to its former glory. After extensive restoration and refitting, including preparing the vessel to modern safety standards for staff and passengers, Yelta was relaunched. Currently Yelta sails the Port River several times a year, allowing passengers to experience a piece of Port Adelaide’s history, the Port River itself, and life onboard the vessel.

Yelta, thought to be in Cockatoo Docks while being constructed. (Pre 1964)

After 27 years in the SA Maritime Museum’s collection, Yelta still holds many secrets. In an attempt to broaden current knowledge of the vessel, research was recently undertaken to investigate questions often asked and facts confused by newspaper articles and photographs. Aspects of concern were the colour scheme, historical presentation of the vessel, and general life of the tug and its crew. To uncover the truth of these concerns, slipping reports, requisition reports, monthly maintenance reports, museum documentation and log books were consulted, in addition to newspaper articles and photographs. Two interviews held with former crew members were also undertaken, providing a personalised view of the tug and its working life.

Yelta steaming, before deck changes (Pre 1964)

Through this research, a timeline was successfully compiled. From 1948 to 1953 Yelta featured in newspapers across Australia, linked with the movement of many vessels in and around Port Adelaide. Slipping and requisition reports follow, from 1956, providing details on maintenance and changes made to the vessel. These reports also allowed for the correct colour scheme to be implemented with confidence; red below the waterline, black hull above the waterline, green or red decks, and white deck structures. Two major changes to deck construction occurred in the mid-to-late 1960s. Yelta’s wheelhouse was overhauled in 1964, downsizing the cabin and adding starboard and portside entrances. Furthermore, in 1967, the Crew’s Accommodation entrance was changed from a hatch to a deckhouse. These two major changes assisted in the approximate dating of photographs held by the museum. Information about Yelta’s movements are commonly known from 1976 onward. Retiring from service in 1976, the vessel was purchased by the National Trust of South Australia and later the South Australian Maritime Museum in 1985.

Yelta after deck changes. Note changes to the wheelhouse and the addition of a deck house aft. (Post 1967)

This is the results of my internship with the South Australian Maritime Museum. When first entering the position, I was assigned to work on the HMAS Protector research focusing on creating a Flickr group and contacting the public to gather further information. However, this was where my first lesson was learnt: you do what your boss thinks is important. So I was moved to work on confirming information on Yelta; discovering whether the colours it was currently painted were the correct ones, what the general history of the vessel was and conducting interviews with members of its previous crew. While I was not immediately excited about the task at hand, I launched myself head first into all the records kept by SAMM—and Yelta grew on me. Discovering that all the images of Yelta were undated (I later discovered a handful that had dates associated with them) led me to look for something that had changed at some point and that could be seen in the images. This led to many hours of reading and making notes on the tug’s slipping reports. From these reports I was also able to trace the changes in paint colour across the entire vessel for almost its entire working life. However, answering all the questions left me with one last task: interviewing some of the previous crew.

Yelta outside the CSR Refinery. The tug can be seen here painted many colours, occurring after its retirement. (Post 1977)

Conducting interviews was not something I had any experience in beforehand, and with only a vague idea of what I wanted to achieve I set off with a camera in hand. Two previous crew members were available to be interviewed at the time. Both of these I conducted slightly differently. With a short list of prepared questions, I took both interviewees, on different days,  for a tour of Yelta to refresh their memories. The first interviewee I filmed on the vessel, allowing for their memories to be caught with the corresponding background. While this produced a wonderful choice of memories for use in a 5 min clip (the desired end result) the film was fraught with bad lighting and minor sound problems. Conversely, for the second interview, after the tour of Yelta I filmed the clips within the SAMM offices. While this fixed the sound and light issues, there was less material to record without the visual stimuli. Between the two interviewees there was also a difference in personality and their comfort levels while being filmed. This would have been the biggest learning experience I undertook while with the museum, and has made me a fraction more comfortable with directing and filming questions, asking someone “can you repeat that?” endlessly, and realising that not everything planned is going to work.

Yelta as it can be seen today.

My time with SAMM showed me a different side to museums. While I began with an interest in collections management and producing exhibitions, I was given the opportunity to work on the research aspect of these interests. My research may in future lead to a small exhibition on board Yelta, focusing on it history within Port Adelaide and has already led to the development of a poster for the upcoming ASHA/AIMA Conference in September/October of this year. In future I hope I can work further with SAMM and with other museums and collections in Australia.

Photos are courtesy of the SA Maritime Museum.

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)

Tennis court tent society at Mallala

“How was the tent?” was one of the first questions my husband asked me during my time at the Flinders Uni Mallala Field Methods Field School (ARCH 8801).  The question arose because of the minor dilemma I had suffered when deciding whether or not to lug my tent to Malalla from Sydney. The Archaeology Department kindly offered one of the Uni tents to aid my plight and, despite my immediate vision of a 2 man pup tent over used by successive generations of Uni students, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I would be comfortably housed in a brand new 3 man dome tent.  Excellent!  Dilemma over.

Our ‘Tennis Court tent society’ at Mallala  was a delightful conglomerate of shapes and sizes, all forming a temporary society consisting of strangers sleeping next to one another, separated by the merest of thin nylon walls.  One of the largest tents, occupied by gentleman Matt, was a suitably impressive family size tent, allowing the luxury of a full standing position (see picture 1). Gentleman Matt appeared quite proud of his comparatively king-like structure as seen by his Napoléonesque poise for the photo.

de Palais Matto

Next door to ‘de Palais Matto’ and previously lived in by Jessica, stood the saddest member of the Tennis Court tent society. A pup tent of dubious nature which had been ‘borrowed’ (see picture 2). Not only was this tent the smallest tent on the block but it failed its prime directive; to stay up and provide shelter. The disappointment is obvious on Jessica’s face.

So sad......

Jessica was able to abandon the premises within a couple of nights of our arrival thanks to the preparedness of Rhiannon. Thankfully, as picture 3 shows, a newer, roomier abode at the other end of the street put a smile on Jessica’s face.

But now much happier!

The Tennis Court tent society was not without its famous residents. Temporary refuge was sought by visiting ABC Radio journalist, Ann. Embracing the spirit of BYO ideology, Ann’s imported lodgings brought lightness and colour, as did her very presence, to the tennis court society (with the possible exception of her fashion choices in pull overs)(see picture 4).

Anna from the ABCRegretfully, the assigned word limit of this blog prevents me from further espousing my thoughts on the  Tennis Court tent society, but special mention must be made of Bob’s true blue, real man swag (picture 5) and, of course, I must assure you that my lodgings, courtesy of Flinders, were extremely comfortable. However this doesn’t stop me from pondering an upgrade next time round. Where did you get your tent from Mick?

Bob, who was my most delightful next door neighbor
Mark obviously didn't want to be photographed with his tent

Di's, like de Palais Matto was also at the high end of the street and just as wonderful

Fashions in the Field

Strutting their stuff on the ‘Red Dust Carpet’ at Redbanks for the April 2012 Field Methods Field School were archaeology students, staff and helpers. Little did anyone realise that as a first time Arch student I was rating the dress sense of my more seasoned colleagues for ‘Fashions in the Field’ Awards. Unlike the red carpets of Paris and Milan, my points were awarded for being practical, safe, dustproof, sun-smart, bite- proof, as well as imaginative and stylish. Participants needed to follow the basic clothing requirements in the course handbook: long sleeve shirt, long pants, wide brim hat, sturdy shoes.

This season’s trends were Akubra style hats and check shirts worn with various shades of khaki; the new black! Those familiar with Munsell Soil Colour Charts know that khaki is dirt camouflage colour. Popular hair styles were short, no nonsense cuts and practical ponytails. But who dared to be different?

Bonnet of distinction – Heather, with her chic beige linen, and Rhiannon, with her embroidered little black Archaeology Society bucket hat, were strong contenders, but the winner was Jess looking a treat in floppy black hat accessorised with green peg!

Artistic Accessories – Bob, with his green anticancer gloves, Matt, with his burnt orange Egyptian scarf, and Viki, with mauve polished nail, were eye catching. Britt, with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, lost points when her precious metal interfered with readings on Julie’s and Rob’s matching WW1 era compasses.  But accessory princess was Amanda, who matched her blue & white bandanna with her nail decal on perfect acrylic nails.











Lovely Locks – Antoinette, with her short, glossy, stylish cut, and Mick, with his ‘no more tears no more tangles’ upstyle pony, looked the part and were practical, but they were outshone by Clare’s wash and wear dreadlocks resplendent with beads and threads!

The overall winner of Fashion in the Field 2012  was Sam, for her delightfully stylish and personalised outfits. The tie-dyed T-shirts, embroidered Nepalese pants, fly-netted hats and arm adornments prove that archaeologists can match function with fashion when in the field.

Walking… and a little bit of archaeology

Surveying for Shipwrecked Mariner Graves off Loch Sloy, Kangaroo Island, SA

By Maddy Fowler and Cassandra Morris

On the 27th March, Kyle Lent, Cassandra Morris and Maddy Fowler, maritime archaeology students at Flinders University, embarked on the Sealink Ferry to Kangaroo Island to participate in the 2012 survey of historic shipwreck burial sites lead by Amer Khan from the Department for Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). This project involved conducting an archaeological survey to investigate possible locations of the burials of twelve bodies recovered from the sea following the wreck of Loch Sloy. The vessel was bound for Port Adelaide when it wrecked north of Cape de Couedic in the early morning of 24th April 1899. The location of the remains of the shipwreck is at present unknown.

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