By Pete Colvin
Each year Flinders University runs a maritime archaeology field school as a part of its commitment to student skills development. This year was no exception: from the 31st January to 12th February 2011, an intensive period of field work was conducted in the Mount Dutton Bay region. In previous visits made to this area Mount Dutton Bay was known to have significant historic and maritime cultural heritage potential. It was from these previous visits that the 2011 field school developed, its aim was to conduct further survey and excavation work on the historic shipwreck Caprice and to further develop and understand the maritime cultural landscape of the area.
Mt. Dutton Bay Maritime Archaeology Field School students and staff, 2011
All the way back in February this year, I accompanied Alice Gorman on her field work at the former Orroral Valley Tracking Station in Namadgi National Park, Canberra. Also along for the ride was Rob Koch (Tafe SA) and Ian Moffat (ANU).
Of course, we happened to make the 15 hour car trip to Canberra on one of its wettest weekends since 2002. The average rainfall for February is 55.4mm – that weekend they received 104mm. The rain did not however curb our enthusiasm, we donned our rain coats and went about recording and mapping the site using differential GPS and geophysical techniques.
The Orroral Valley Tracking Station, operational from 1965, was established as part of NASA’s Spacecraft Tracking and Date Acquisition Network (STADAN). The station closed in 1985, and today is visible only through the foundations of the buildings, a ‘footprint’ left as a reminder of the past.
Over the past few months I have been partaking in a Practicum as part of my Masters in CHM. This has involved looking into the history and use of Microlock networks, Minitrack stations and Baker Nunn cameras (all used in the tracking of satellites) at Orroral Valley and within Australia. Hopefully, this will assist Alice in her attempts to record and document the site so that an in-depth understanding of its contribution to Australia’s space history can be established.
Stay tuned for my results…
Thank you to all of my intrepid students who finish up their ARCH8307 “Introductory Archaeological Geophysics” topic this afternoon by presenting the data they have collected from the historic Meadows Wesleyan cemetery in the Adelaide Hills. The students, split in two groups entitled “The A Team” and “The Sextons”, collected, processed and interpreted ground penetrating radar, electromagnetic induction and magnetometer data to try to locate the foundations of the former church and some of the more than 50 unmarked burials know the exist within this cemetery. Students also were fortunate to be able to assist Flinders PhD candidate Martin Wimmer by searching for an air raid shelter in Souter Park, Goodwood. The investigations are still a bit inconclusive, but our preliminary interpretation is that a feature did exist on this site however any material used for it’s construction has now been removed.
Our intrepid Technical Officer Louise Holt sends these pictures from the Chile Field School. She reports that the food is good, and the Chilean wine is great.
It is hot….for those who have read my previous blog and noted my brag about the luxurious life we live in while at the mine, well I take it all back. We have had on average throughout October temperatures of 36-38 degrees. I live in dread of what the temperatures will be like by February. To make matters worse, next week I am off to a mine near Marble Bar – noted for its record of 161 days straight where the temperature did not drop below 37.8 degrees.
While there, we will be undertaking a survey in quite steep hills so I am hoping that I get the opportunity to record a rock shelter, something I have not yet done. Through this job, I have gained quite a bit of experience with recording artefact scatters, quarries, reduction areas, gringing patches and scarred trees, I have come a long way since I started 4 months ago with no Indigenous archaeology experience. I have also gained significant experience writing CHM reports, mapping, site recording, using a GPS, surveying and 4 Wheel Driving.
When considering this type of job for a career I would suggest the following as essential requirements: sense of humor, able to work as part of a team, adaptability, good physical fitness and above all the ability to work under pressure. If anyone is interested, there are HEAPS of jobs here in WA, send out your resumes and cold canvas.