Leven Lass: An Origin Story

By: Chelsea Colwell-Pasch

As I near the end of my directed study in maritime archaeology, I wanted to take the time to discuss one of the main facets of my final report: Leven Lass. I have had the opportunity thoroughly to research the background of Leven Lass, not only for my directed study, but also as part of my masters thesis. For my thesis, I am producing a multiphasic vessel biography on Leven Lass utilising Wessex Archaeology’s BULSI (Build, Use, Loss, Survival, and Investigation) system. I plan on evaluating the system for its utility in shipwreck studies and place Leven Lass in a broader context of nineteenth century seafaring in Australia.

Leven Lass was chosen as my thesis topic after the 2014 Maritime Archaeology Field School conducted at Phillip Island, Victoria this past January. The field school was centred on a wreck that was determined to be Leven Lass by a previous Flinders masters student who worked on the wreck during the 2012 Maritime Archaeology Field School (Wilson 2012). While the focus of that thesis was more on maritime cultural landscapes, my thesis is looking at the vessel’s life cycle or career, from design inception to shipwreck investigation, and its broader implications for shipwreck studies, significance assessments and post-colonial Australian seafaring.

Leven Lass was built in Dumbarton, Scotland, at Denny’s Shipyard (see Figure 1 below), yard number two, in 1839 (The Clyde Built Ships 2014). Leven Lass was sold in Glasgow, Scotland, on 16 September 1852 by Paton and Grant and sailed from Scotland to Australia (Melbourne) on 1 October 1852 by Captain Sholto Gardener Jamieson (1818-1882), arriving in 1853 (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8; Lythgoe 2014; Wilson 2012). The brig Leven Lass spent time as a post carrier between Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney and was considered “a remarkably fast sailer” (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8). A brig was a two-masted sailing ship with square rigging on both masts and was commonly used as couriers on coastal routes (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online 2014). 



Figure 1. A model rendition of Denny’s shipyard in 1908 at Dumbarton, Scotland (Royal Museums Greenwich 2014).

Leven Lass is going to be thoroughly researched by the end of 2014 to say the least. The field report being constructed for Heritage Victoria during this directed study is not going to be as detailed as my proposed thesis but more of a synopsis of field work conducted and a discussion of the results and interpretation of the data collected during both the 2012 and 2014 field schools.


Encyclopaedia Britannica Online 2014 “Brig”. Retrieved 3 June 2014 from: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/79477/brig.

Glasgow Herald 1852 “At Glasgow – For Melbourne, Port-Phillip”. 17 September: 8.

Lythgoe, Darrin 2014 Shetland Family History. Retrieved 23 May 2014 from: http://www.bayanne.info/Shetland/getperson.php? personID=I11228&tree=ID1.

Royal Museums Greenwich 2014 Denny’s Shipyard. Retrieved 23 May 2014 from: http://prints.rmg.co.uk/art/510730/Topographic_model_Dennys_shipyard_Dumbarton.

The Clyde Built Ships 2014 Leven Lass. Electronic document. Retrieved 23 May 2014 from: http://www.clydeships.co.uk/view.php?ref=14432,

Wilson, Dennis D. 2012 The Investigation of Unidentified Wreck 784, Phillip Island, Victoria: Applying Cultural Landscape Theory and Hierarchy of Time to the Assessment of Shipwreck Significance. Unpublished Masters thesis, DEPT Flinders University, Adelaide.




Moreton Bay Magnetometer Survey – Making it Work

By Paddy Waterson

It’s always exciting, and a bit nerve racking, when you get a new piece of ‘kit’.  Will it be easy to put together? Will it work as well as you hoped?  Will it enable you to achieve the results you have promised?  You have probably seen the same piece of equipment at work and know the basics, but the onus is on you now and there are always tricks to be learnt.

In 2013, the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection invested in a new Geometrics G882 Marine Magnetometer to assist with the Queensland Historic Shipwreck Survey (QHSS). The QHSS is a five year initiative to update official records on the state’s estimated 1400 historic shipwrecks. The size of the state, and the number of historic shipwrecks, means that the fieldwork component of the survey is aimed at locating, identifying and documenting wrecks in key strategic areas, such as Moreton Bay. The initial phases of fieldwork in the QHSS used an existing side scan sonar system and had been quite successful in locating a number of wrecks. However, it soon became apparent that we need something more. The dynamic nature of the Queensland coast made locating many timber wrecks problematic, largely because they are constructed from materials that are extremely vulnerable to deterioration in the marine environment and so tend to have a lower physical profile. This is compounded by Queensland’s offshore environment that is a mixture of dense corals, thick muds and highly mobile sand, all of which can significantly inhibit the effectiveness of visual and side scan sonar searches for low profile historic shipwrecks. A business case for a magnetometer was subsequently developed and the G882 was purchased using funds from the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Program—now I just have to make it work!

A project was developed to configure and test the magnetometer in local conditions to ensure we achieved the best potential outcomes when it was deployed across the state. This project has two phases:

  1. The initial testing of the magnetometer on five known shipwrecks to determine its operational limits and develop a signature profile guide for different wreck types.
  2. Conducting preliminary research into two previously un-located wrecks in the Moreton Bay Region.

The initial testing phase will use five known wrecks within the greater Moreton region. These wrecks were chosen for their comparative signature profile testing, as they are a good representative sample of the different wreck types commonly encountered along the Queensland coast. The test wrecks range in type from a small wooden schooner and a large iron hulled barque, through to steel hulled trawler. By comparing the different magnetic signatures of the wrecks, and their relative detection ranges, we will be able to refine future survey methods and better interpret results when searching for previously un-located historic shipwrecks.

Table 1. Details of the five wrecks used to test the magnetometer, build a signature profile and refine search methods.  These wrecks were chosen due to their variation in size, physical profile and construction materials.

Table 1. Details of the five wrecks used to test the magnetometer, build a signature profile and refine search methods. These wrecks were chosen due to their variation in size, physical profile and construction materials.

The initial configuration and preliminary tests were conducted in November 2013. The hardware configuration for the magnetometer was relatively simple, as it came correctly calibrated for the region. Some minor assembly was required, but this was quickly achieved with the support of staff from Marine Sciences and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

The Geometrics G882 Marine Magnetometer

The Geometrics G882 Marine Magnetometer

The magnetometer being deployed from the Queensland Marine Parks vessel Caretta.  Assisting are Ranger Rohan Couch (left) and Technical Officer James Fels (right).

The magnetometer being deployed from the Queensland Marine Parks vessel Caretta.  Assisting are Ranger Rohan Couch (left) and Technical Officer James Fels (right).

The initial software configuration proved more challenging, as the magnetometer software was configured to integrate the GPS data via a ‘pin-port’ rather than the more common USB connection—this was resolved through the acquisition of an additional ‘pin-port’ aerial output cable.  The use of a specialised laptop that could cope with the movement of the vessel was also essential—many laptops simply lock up the hard drive when vibration is detected.

The laptop, data junction box and GPS configured and ready for deployment.

The laptop, data junction box and GPS configured and ready for deployment.

With the initial set-up and preliminary systems testing complete the surveys of the known wrecks could commence—and a new range of challenges could begin. More on that in my next blog.

What do a brewery, two ships and king have in common?

By Tom Georgonicas

I thought I would follow up on my previous blog with a look at other archaeological digs, both nationally and internationally that have taken place in car parks.

Back in 2011, an excavation was carried out on a car park in Hindley Street, Adelaide. The car park was to make way for a new learning centre for the University of South Australia, but before the building began, Austral Archaeology carried out an archaeological assessment of the car park. Excavations were carried out late that year and the results were amazing. Structural remains of a home built in 1838, the Temperance Hotel and a corner of the original West End Brewery were found. A short summary of what was found can be found on the Uni SA website or by clicking here.

Also in 2011t excavations were carried out in a car park in Bunbury, Western Australia. The excavation team, led by members of the Department of Maritime Archaeology from the Western Australian Museum, found three sites relating to shipwrecks. These shipwrecks were the whaling vessels the Samuel Wright and the North America. If you are interested in learning more on these excavations, follow this link provided by the Western Australian Museum. At the end of the page there is a download link of the full report of the site by Ross Anderson and Madeline McAllister.

Last, but not least, in Britain, the remains of King Richard III, the last King of England of the Plantagenet line were discovered underneath a car park  in Leicester, along with the remains of a Grey Friars church.

It caused a worldwide media sensation when the remains were exhumed in August 2012. It was noted at the time of the exhumation that the skeleton showed traces of scoliosis of the spine, an object embedded in the spine and severe injuries to the skull. The use of historic maps was also important to the project. The arrangement and location of the friary buildings were not known. By using a map from the mid 18th century, the team was able to locate the buildings and what areas of the friary had not been built upon over the years. (Buckley et al. 2013)

We all know he was really killed by this guy.

I don’t expect to find kings or ships buried under car parks in Adelaide, but I wrote this to show the archaeological potential that car parks can hold. Progress wise, I am getting there. I am entering the writing phase at the moment, gathering the data and photos etc. Hopefully on my next blog post I can give a sample of my results.
Tom Georgonicas


Buckley. R.,M. Morris, J.Appleby and T.King 2013 ‘The king in the car park’: New light on the death and burial of Richard III in the Grey Friars church, Leicester, in 1485. Antiquity 87: 519-538.

Stay at home archaeologist. Also, the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

By April Webb.

When I mention to people that I’m studying archaeology, I get the standard question: “Oh, so you’re like Indiana Jo-”


Honestly, I’ve never even seen it. But, I can understand why people would make the comparison. (Well, probably. Like I said, I’ve never seen it.) Scrolling through the posts tagged “Directed study,” it seems like the adventuring starts while you’re still at uni – everyone’s out and about talking to people, recording sites, hey, probably even using a trowel. Not me though. It’s been a while since I left the house.


My colleagues don’t talk much

Welcome to the exciting world of a distance student doing a desktop-based directed study.

Most people, I assume, at least go into an office to do their desk work. But the fact is, this directed study has taught me something significant: I like desktop work. Which is good to know, because, assuming I am lucky enough to be an employed person one day, there will be a lot of this. Desktop studies are a fairly integral part of the early stages of most archaeological projects. Two of my other classes this semester, on Heritage Management Planning and Research Grants, have reinforced the message. Archaeology isn’t just romance. It isn’t even just trashiness like you see on those garbage treasure hunter shows. It’s also a lot of sitting in front of a computer, conducting background research. Writing grant proposals and management plans. Learning the ins and outs of legislation. Developing back problems from your terrible sitting posture.

But, no one came here to hear about my sedentary lifestyle. (Or, maybe you did, in which case you should probably reassess your whole value system.) So here are some things I know now that I didn’t know before that relate to my Directed Study on Aboriginal Regional Authorities in South Australia.

The Torres Strait Regional Authority.

As I’ve mentioned before, my Directed Study project centres on the establishment of Aboriginal Regional Authorities in South Australia. While regional governance is quite widely accepted as a suitable model for Aboriginal communities (Sullivan 2010), historically there have been historically few regional bodies with legislative authority. One of these has been the Torres Strait Regional Authority. Under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), a system of Regional Councils existed across Australia, one of which was the Torres Shire Regional Council. The TSRC was established under a separate section of the ATSIC Act (1989), and was the only one to be retained (it was transformed into the TSRA in 1994 in an amendment to the ATSIC Act) after the abolition of ATSIC in 2004. The government’s stated reason for retaining it under the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Act (2004) was that, unlike ATSIC, the TSRA was functioning well (MacDonald 2007:49).

Indeed, the TSRA has been cited as a possible model for other regionally-based bodies (Muurdi Paaki Regional Council 2004). With that in mind, there are aspects of the TSRA model that should be considered when thinking about the implementation of Regional Authorities in South Australia. Firstly, the TSRA functioned well, according to Mr Ron Day, member of the TSRA board, because the Torres Strait is a small island group where everybody is more related, and everybody understands where the others are going (MacDonald 2007:50). The plan so far for Regional Authorities in SA is that they will establish their own boundaries and membership. In light of the Torres Strait experience, this certainly seems like the best idea. But one distinctive feature of the Torres Strait is its (relative) homogeneity. Torres Strait Islanders make up the majority of the population. Their exact system may not work as well in other regions. Certainly, the Ngarrindjeri are a good case study for effective regional governance in South Australia. Maybe I’ll write about them next time. Right now, I have to stand up before my coccyx disintegrates underneath me.


MacDonald, E. 2007 The Torres Strait Regional Authority: Is it the answer to regional governance for Indigenous Peoples? Australian Indigenous Law Review 11(3):43-54.

Muurdi Paaki Regional Council 2004 Submission to the Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs. Retrieved 10May 2014 from <http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/wopapub/senate/committee/indigenousaffairs_ctte/submissions/sub141_pdf.ashx&gt;

Sullivan, P. 2010 Government processes and the effective delivery of services: The Ngaanyatjarra Council and its Regional Partnership Agreement. Desert Knowledge CRC Working Paper 71. DKCRC, Alice Springs.

Getting to Know Your Resources

Kahlia Pearce, Grad Dip in Archaeology and CHM

As part of my Directed Study project on the historical archaeology of Calperum station, I thought it would be a great idea to drive up to Renmark one day and look at the local history books in their library, as they didn’t have a catalogue online. The road trip  was long and tiring, but we were lucky it did not rain during the trip.


Renmark Public Library

At the Renmark public library I searched through their local history cabinet. There were a few books in the library that I could not find at the State Library regarding the history of Calperum Station. I am not focusing on Calperum Station, but the other potential historical archaeological sites that may be present in the area, thus it is still useful to read the information as it gives a back story and clues on what I could research.

I mentioned to the librarian that I was doing a research project on the Calperum and Taylorville area. She gave me some contact details for the local historian in Renmark who could help me with my research.

I was very lucky when I contacted the historian, as she has an interest in pastoral history. I have received a lot of advice from her on where to look and what to search for. I recently took a master class on specialist library skills (which I highly recommend for everyone to attend, as it was very helpful), as I had no idea how complicated it can be when trying to research specific areas and all the different keywords that may seem irrelevant but that can turn out to be useful when searching for relevant information.

Getting into contact with other researchers is very useful in the archaeological world, as it is a way of gaining knowledge from other people and finding new things you can research. When I was an undergraduate I had no idea how difficult it actually was when doing a research project that no one had attempted before. I would not trade this experience and it has taught me some very useful tips: particularly that people who are interested in, or specialise in, these areas are the best source of guidance.

National Archaeology Week 2014: Events in South Australia

National Archaeology Week 2014 is creeping up fast! Starting next Sunday, the 18th of May, NAW 2014 in South Australia is packed with a variety of public engagement initiatives. Many thanks to City of Tea Tree Gully Library, Old Highercombe Hotel Museum, Tea Tree Gully and Districts Historical Society, Flinders University Archaeology Department, the Flinders Archaeological Society, the South Australian Museum, and the South Australian Archaeology Society for organising this year’s events!

Please click this link to download the NAW 2014 SA flyer for more information: NAW 2014 SA Events.

For more information on NAW, please see the NAW Facebook page, Twitter account (@archaeologyweek), or contact Jordan Ralph, SA Coordinator of National Archaeology Week.

In South Australia, National Archaeology Week is incorporated into About Time, SA’s History Festival. For more on About Time and the many events on offer, please see their informative website or pick up a program from your local library.


The murder of Chinese shepherd Ah Shong at Cambridge Downs Station, Queensland, 1875

On the day after Christmas day in 1875, the Chinese shepherd referred to only as ‘Ah Shong’ in historical records, was allegedly murdered at Cambridge Downs Station by a large group of local Indigenous people. Although it is the only official account of violence on the station it helps to paint a chilling picture of the atmosphere of terror that likely prevailed over many years as a result of the conflict between Aboriginal inhabitants and pastoral settlers.

On receiving the news that the shepherd had been murdered, Sub Inspector M. Tyrell Day of the Native Mounted Police stationed in Bowen reportedly “proceeded in pursuit of the murderers and continued the pursuit for ten days travelling in that time over two hundred miles” (Queensland State Archives 1876). He followed the suspects without success and was similarly unable to find Ah Shong’s body or other evidence of the murder. Finally returning to Cambridge Downs Station, some two weeks after the incident had taken place, Sub Inspector Day, in collaboration with the station’s managers, questioned ‘witnesses’, “but elicited nothing to prove the murder except that the Blacks were near the place when the Chinaman disappeared and destroyed about fifty sheep” (Queensland State Archives 1876). According to the inquest documents, a young Aboriginal boy informed the police that the man’s body had been cut up and buried in a waterhole.

So many aspects of this incident warrant further investigation, not least of all Sub Inspector Day’s seemingly relentless search for the ‘suspects’ before he even established the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the ‘crime’. But it is possibly because the victim, like the alleged perpetrators, was not of Anglo descent, that the incident demands our greatest consideration. Ill-feeling between European settlers and Chinese migrants is well documented in Queensland’s pastoral and mining history of the period (Evans 2007); is it reasonable to assume that authorities would have viewed the murder of a ‘Chinaman’ with the gravity that is conveyed in the historical record or, perhaps, more pointedly, is it unreasonable to assume that such an incident provided these men with the slim justification they required to initiate a brutal retaliatory attack on local Indigenous people.

As students of archaeology we are constantly taught to question the validity of our sources. It is now impossible to substantiate the claims set forth in this record, and we are similarly even less able to appreciate the principles and beliefs of those who were involved.   Is evidence such as the inquest report for this murder invaluable to teasing out a greater understanding of race relations in colonial Queensland, or does it simply serve to confound our comprehension of an exceedingly complex situation?

 Megan Tutty, Master of CHM student

Evans, R. 2007 A History of Queensland. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Queensland State Archives: Justice Department I; Series ID 36; Item ID 348647, Inquest into the death of Ah Shong, inquest 58 of 1876.