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Blue Team – Happy and gay at three meters, Maritime Archaeology Field School

Authors:  Peta Straiton, Mark White, Richard Pauley and Jonathan Bauer

After the long 868 kilometre trip from Adelaide to Phillip Island, Victoria, all field participants were keen to get straight into work [after a good night’s sleep of course]. Participants were divided into colour coordinated groups. We, the “Blue Team” consist of Mark White, Jonathan Bauer, Peta Straiton and Richard Pauley, and is supervised by the wonderful Jane Mitchell, and the beautiful Julie Mushynsky.

Unfortunately, the Blue Team’s plans for day one were thwarted by bad weather which made for unsafe diving conditions. To combat their dismay the Blue Team (along with all the other teams) worked in their groups to refresh their skills in conducting baseline-offset surveys, trilateration, and photography.

With more promising weather on the second morning all divers headed out to the beach to ensure that everyone’s skills were up to scratch. Luckily everyone passed. Despite a slight breeze, the search for the underwater site began. The Blue Team was scheduled to be the second group in the water, however, the weather once again turned sour. Strong surges and limited visibility rendered the site unsafe. Fortunately for the Blue Team we were still able to catch some sun on the beach and even under take some foot surveys do a little bit of work.

Wednesday proved to be a far more successful day for the Blue Team. We travelled to Rhyll Beach where a cool breeze and hot sun could not stop us from undertaking magnetometer surveys, conducting metal detector sweeps, gathering GPS points and performing baseline-offset surveys.

The team, in conjunction with John Jansson (a local historian and shipwreck enthusiast) were trying to locate an old wreck that was originally named the Oscar but was later called the Ventnor. Mr Jansson provided us with valuable information about the history of this vessel.

Built in 1874 as a 29-ton, 73-foot scow hull at Footscray (Melbourne) for the Carlton and United Breweries, the vessel regularly  transported beer to Williamstown (J. Jansson pers. comm. 5/2/14). However, in January 1923, the vessel was purchased by the Phillip Island and Western Port Steam Shipping Company to act as a ferry after they added a wheel house.  The vessel was to be captained by Jack Johanaugust Jansson, Mr Jansson’s grandfather (J.Jansson pers. comm. 5/2/14). In 1925 the vessel was laid up and its superstructure dismantled. The remains of the hull were later beached and dismantled. John  Jansson (pers. comm. 5/2/14) confirmed that this timber-built ship contained metal fastenings for the team to discover.

To assist with the growing population of the island and Rhyll Beach’s popularity a seawall was constructed to provide a stable area near the beach where families could sit and relax. The seawall currently rests directly on top of the vessel’s remains. While the data from the magnetometer is still being processed and analysed, the metal detector did manage to locate several features and may possibly be the fastenings of the ship’s hull.

By using the baseline-offset survey technique, we recorded the remains of the old retaining wall for the original slipway (Figure 1). Located on the eastern side of the current slipway and surrounded by basalt rock, these remains help to define the extremities of this original access point.

Figure 1: Remains of the timber slipway retaining wall, facing northwest.  Photo taken by Peta Straiton.

Figure 1: Remains of the timber slipway retaining wall, facing northwest.
Photo taken by Peta Straiton.

Thursday proved to be a day full of learning, excitement and challenges that the Blue Team were ready to face head on. By 8:00 AM, we were on the road to the boat ramp to finally dive the site; the site we had all come to see. After a small hiccup (of misplaced diving equipment), we entered the water for our first dive, and what an amazing dive it was. Flat calm seas, good visibility, and hardly a breath of wind. The team did not waste any time, going full force into their assigned tasks. Laying a baseline for surveys, photographing features and creating site plans. All was going well until we got out of the water only to discover we had lost the entire site plan and photo log.

After changing our tanks, eating lunch and quickly discussing what we did well and what needed improvement, we were back in the water with stronger plans, stronger minds and more determination than ever. Continuing with the tasks we did not finish (or re-doing what was lost), the team were all smiles and laughs as they hauled themselves into the boat to return to camp, happy with a job well done (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Peta Straiton, photography, Richard Pauley recording with Julie Mushynsky.  Photo taken by Jonathan Benjamin.

Figure 2: Peta Straiton, photography, Richard Pauley recording with Julie Mushynsky.
Photo taken by Jonathan Benjamin.

Friday morning was similar to Thursday, with the team packing to be ready to leave at 8:00 AM. Continuing with baseline-offset measurements and scale drawings, the first dive went smoothly. Returning to shore with a sense of accomplishment the team changed tanks, ate, and once again returned to the site. While the second dive proved to be more complex than the last, with strong surges and visibility down to one metre, the team proved that we have what it takes to get the job done.

With the first week at an end and the second just about to begin, all team members are enjoying the complexities that the field school presents mentally, emotionally and physically. We have all enjoyed the camaraderie that has developed, and we have already created memories never to be forgotten. All we can say is that, so far,  we have had a positively Gaytime (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Richard, Mark, Jane, and Jon, enjoying an Aussie Golden Gaytime.  Photo taken by Peta Straiton.

Figure 3: Richard, Mark, Jane, and Jon, enjoying an Aussie Golden Gaytime.
Photo taken by Peta Straiton.

Red Team – Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Field School: Taking Geophysics Down Under

Authors: Lauren Davison, Josh Russ, and Tim Zapor

From 2nd February, 2014 until 16th February, 2014, Flinders University teaches its Maritime Archaeology Field School in which students have a unique opportunity to have hands-on training in the field. Generally, only a few people get such experience until they reach a professional level.  Students from around the world get a chance to gain valuable knowledge from professionals, historians, PhD. candidates, and local societies around Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia.  This experience gained is invaluable and helps to elevate the growth and knowledge of these aspiring professionals in a field of great importance to cultural heritage.  Archaeology is a field in which professionals and the community share in the protection of a finite resource that will be lost without the cooperation of both parties.

Figure 1: Field school ‘check-out’ dive at Cowes Jetty, Phillip Island, Vic. [Photo taken by Lauren Davison].

Figure 1: Field school ‘check-out’ dive at Cowes Jetty, Phillip Island, Vic. [Photo taken by Lauren Davison].

Figure 2: ‘Check-out’ dive surface attendants Vanessa Sullivan (Green team) and Josh Russ (Red team) [Photo taken by Lauren Davison].

Figure 2: ‘Check-out’ dive surface attendants Vanessa Sullivan (Green team) and Josh Russ (Red team) [Photo taken by Lauren Davison].

In collaboration with Heritage Victoria (HV) (Peter Harvey and Toni Massey), the Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria (MAAV) (Peter Taylor and Des Williams), and Flinders University, students have made preliminary evaluations of possible shipwreck sites off the coast of Phillip Island using a side scan sonar from HV’s vessel Trim.

Figure 2: Peter Harvey (HV) and Peter Taylor (MAAV) helping Tim Zapor plot points for the side-scan sonar survey grid on Trim (Photo taken by Lauren Davison).

Figure 3: Peter Harvey (HV) and Peter Taylor (MAAV) helping Tim Zapor (Short course student) plot points for the side-scan sonar survey grid on Trim (Photo taken by Lauren Davison).

One such wreck that was discovered is Vixen, which was a schooner-rigged, carvel-built ferry that sunk in 1917 while under-tow from Phillip Island to Melbourne, Vic.  Vixen had taken on water while moored at Rhyll when the topside seams burst open in 1915 (Jansson 2013).  On the 20th of July 1917, the tugboat Sprightly was towing Vixen to Melbourne for repairs when it became unattached and started to founder.  There was an attempt to run the vessel aground at Rhyll (Phillip Island) but it failed and Vixen sank about a mile east of Cowes Jetty. The exact location of the shipwreck site was unknown until the 6th February, 2014 when a team of professionals, students, and local society members located the long lost ship remains (Department of the Environment 2013).  The team was able to successfully locate the wreck with the use of local knowledge of events surrounding the wrecking event as well as the advanced technology of side scan sonar.

Figure 6: Vixen at Cowes, November 1902 – A.J. Campbell, Museum of Victoria Collection (Photo courtesy of John Jannson).

Figure 4: Vixen at Cowes, November 1902 – A.J. Campbell, Museum of Victoria Collection (Photo courtesy of John Jannson).

In underwater archaeology, geophysics is the scientific study of features below the surface or seabed using a range of instruments including side scan sonar to produce an image (Bowens 2009:217).  Side scan sonar is a method that uses sound that reflects off the seabed and objects and produces shadows that with enough experience can be interpreted and then investigated.  Side scan sonar emits sound waves that strike the sea floor and creates imagery by recording the timing and amplitude of those sound wave reflections (Bowens 2009:218).  This method cannot replace divers on the seafloor, but greatly aids in the locating of shipwrecks and other material on the seabed especially in hazardous conditions.  This is exactly how the Vixen was located.  Peter Harvey and Toni Massey from Heritage Victoria kindly lent their assistance and boat Trim and with the knowledge acquired from Peter Taylor and Des Williams (MAAV) after countless hours of research and years of looking for the Vixen; allowed students to participate in an astounding find for Phillip Island and for most of the students, their first shipwreck.

Figure 3: Peter Taylor (MAAV) and Des Williams (MAAV) pulling up the ‘tow-fish’ (HummingBird Sonar 898) after the side-scan sonar survey (Photo taken by Lauren Davison).

Figure 5: Peter Taylor (MAAV) and Des Williams (MAAV) pulling up the ‘tow-fish’ (HummingBird Sonar 898) after the side-scan sonar survey (Photo taken by Lauren Davison).

Figure 4: Vixen shipwreck imaged from the side-scan sonar (image captured 6th February, 2014).

Figure 6: Vixen shipwreck imaged from the side-scan sonar (image captured 6th February, 2014).

The image above shows a slight deviation from the seabed that, to the untrained eye, doesn’t appear to be much, but with experience one can start to ‘pick out’ these variations.  Experience comes with hours of observing these images and experts can start to identify the presence of possible shipwrecks.  After locating a possible site, divers are needed to confirm the remains because not every image is necessarily a wreck.

Figure 5: The Red Team left to right: Josh Russ, Supervisor Toni Massey, Tim Zapor, Supervisor Chelsea Colwell-Pasch, and Lauren Davison (Photo taken by Des Williams).

Figure 7: The Red Team left to right: Josh Russ, Supervisor Toni Massey, Tim Zapor, Supervisor Chelsea Colwell-Pasch, and Lauren Davison (Photo taken by Des Williams).

The use of side scan sonar helped to limit the time and cost of endless hours of diver searching that would produce little results.  This method allowed for a non-invasive and in-situ identification and preservation of a wreck that would be otherwise lost forever.  Local historian John Jansson, and fellow local historians, have an invested interest in preserving the culture of the area and helping to educate people on the history surrounding the ships as well as the intangible heritage that brings the human perspective to the physical remains.  The cooperation between local community members and professionals alike, such as was undertaken in this investigation, aids in the preservation of the world’s heritage, one shipwreck at a time.

References

Bowens, Amanda (editor)

2009 Underwater Archaeology: The NAS Guide to Principles and Practice. 2nd ed. Blackwell Publishing, West Sussex.

Campbell, A.J.

1902 Museum of Victoria Collection.

Department of the Environment

2013 Australian National Shipwrecks Database. Electronic document, http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/shipwrecks/database.htm, accessed February 8, 2013.

Jansson, John

2013 Personal Communication.

Maritime Archaeology Field School 2014 – Phillip Island, Victoria

Flinders Technical Officer and Dive Coordinator John Naumann dutifully watching over student divers on a shipwreck site.

Flinders Technical Officer and Dive Coordinator John Naumann dutifully watching over student divers on a shipwreck site.

 

This year the Maritime Archaeology Field School run by Flinders University’s Maritime Archaeology Program is held on Phillip Island, Victoria from 2-15 February, 2014. As part of the continuous assessment requirement for the field school, students from around the world and Australia write team blogs about their experiences and research as they near the end of their first week in the field. The students are divided into four teams (red, blue, green and yellow) and each team is responsible for contributing to the data recovery and the recording of the various maritime cultural heritage projects. Projects that students are able to undertake include underwater shipwreck surveys, foreshore surveys, and geophysical surveys. All work is done in cooperation with Heritage Victoria. Besides having daily work plans and data processing, students also attend lectures by industry professionals, local historians and avocational archaeologists on various topics and projects within Victoria. The students in each team have different experiences and involvements during field school and their unique perspectives are captured in their separate blog posts as a way for them to reflect and learn from their experiences as well as practice public archaeology through the dissemination of project details. Over the course of the next few days, each team’s blog post will be published on Flinders Archaeology Blog for public viewing.

Applying Archaeology to Ardtornish Estate

As I have mostly recorded Indigenous sites during my undergrad, recording the interior of an historical site was a bit frightening. Remembering the Historical Archaeology subject from several years ago, and studying up on recording techniques from the Archaeologist‘s Field  Handbook, (Burke and Smith, 2004) the task seemed (slightly) less daunting!

Armed with a measuring tape, camera, photo scale and the handbook, I arrived at the house thinking, ‘what have I got myself into?’ Apprehensive at conducting this recording solo, the homeowner was very easy going and quickly put me at ease. Moving room to room with him and his pet dog, the bottom floor was recorded first.

ardtornish dog

Assistant archaeologist on the ground floor level.

This particular level has barely been touched since it was first built, and was exciting to record. When you first walk in you get a great sense of what it would have been like in the 1840s. Excited to be there, I began measuring (with the owner’s help!) the different features of the room. However, when I began to photograph these elements I saw the dreaded sign that no one wants to see: low battery!

It became clear that to record efficiently would take a bit more practice, although, by the end of recording the bottom floor, it became easier. However, if I was to do it again I would conduct my recording completely differently by recording more methodically, and bringing spare batteries!

The recording highlighted the importance of having the owner’s knowledge, as well as knowing the background to the site before recording it.

Reference

Burke, H. & C. Smith. 2004 The Archaeologist’s Field Handbook. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.

The Catalogue: A Must Have in Museum Health

By Sarah-Anne Martin

It could be said that within the body of the museum the catalogue is the heart; the museum lives or dies based on its health. Through my directed study project at the Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum, this concept has become very real to me as I work through the collection of 300 plus Past Masters Jewels assigned to me. The reality of my task is that the work that I do now may set the precedent for future cataloguing projects. This, of course, has encouraged me to do my very best and to perform my cataloguing task with accuracy and in a concise manner that could be followed and replicated. I fear that one day I’ll look back on my work as a much more experienced and seasoned heritage professional, and cringe at what is now the very best I can do. Through all this I cannot help but reflect on the process and how tough it can be, especially for small museums, to meet what might be considered ‘best practice’ in collections management.

Figure 1. The Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum’s new heart: the cataloguing program ‘Collections Mosaic’

The Community Museums Program Handbook (Walsh and James 2008), provided to small museums from History SA, has the following to say about museum collections:

Good museum collections are those that are put together with meaning and purpose, rather than those that are created and allowed to grow in an undirected way (Walsh & James 2008:116).

This statement could be considered the idyllic model for museum collections. It seems straightforward enough: collect with purpose and do not let your collection grow without meaning. Granted, this would be ideal, however, for the small museum, this may not be so easy in reality. This could be for a number of reasons:

  • The lack of a functional cataloguing and accessioning processes.
  • The level of computer literacy required to use cataloguing programs.
  • The fear that not accepting items may alienate visitors or offend donors.
  • The lack of knowledge or understanding about historical significance.

For the small museum these factors are huge considerations because funds are limited, visitors are sporadic and many of the workers are volunteers and therefore may have varying skills and experience.

On top of all this there is also the consideration of time. This is the first of the cataloguing projects in the Masonic Centre Museum and it will hopefully not be the last, but these things take time. While volunteers are obviously dedicated to the museum, you cannot necessarily ask them to give up the mass of hours necessary to successfully catalogue an entire collection. All of these factors must be considered and balanced carefully. From my perspective this is why working on this directed study project at the Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum is so important, because it is the beginning of addressing these issues and establishing ‘best practice’ for the museum. Before long the museum will be in the best shape of its life.

References

Walsh, K. and A. James 2008 Community Museums Program Handbook. Retrieved 10 August 2013 from http://community.history.sa.gov.au/cmp-handbook.