Tag Archives: Flinders University

Holbæk and Handsker – A Fieldtrip to Denmark

The Danish word for gloves is handsker, which, when directly translated, is not too far off from ‘hand shoes.’

The irony of this was not lost on me as I slid my thermal gloves over my feet and then into my sleeping bag, preparing myself for the night ahead.

‘A Danish spring will be fine’, I had thought to myself. ‘You’ve lived in a tent before while on fieldwork, and how cold can it really get?’

The museum at Kalundborg

The museum at Kalundborg

Before I continue I should provide some context. My name is Iain Gately, and I am a student in the maritime archaeology program here at Flinders University. My career (in whatever sense that term can be ascribed to the past 10 years of my life) has seen me move from deep submergence archaeology, performed by robots hundreds of metres below the sea, to some of the oldest evidence for human habitation in the Pilbara, and everything in between – before finding myself stuck in a tent in Denmark, putting gloves on my feet.

It all began quite innocently. I had taken a class that promised a new look at maritime archaeology, exploring the submerged landscapes of prehistory, and what this could reveal about human societies across the globe. I found myself drawn to Denmark, a country where I had spent some time studying and living, beginning my Master of Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southern Denmark. Denmark has long been a leader in the study of submerged prehistory, which has seen some extremely important discoveries occur in the waters surrounding it. Developing my thesis over about 4 months, I tried to apply techniques I had learned here in Australia to the Danish environment, in an effort to determine ways to differentiate between settlement sites and food procurement sites within the archaeological record.

Museum Archives

The Kalundborg museum archives

The site I chose to look at, M.T. Naes, was excavated in 1989, as part of the construction of the Great Belt Bridge that now links the islands of Zealand and Funen. Some extremely significant work was done here, looking at the submerged prehistory of Denmark and it was a real privilege to be able to access the material as part of my research. I would be analyzing the 3,712 pieces of archaeological flint that were excavated from the site, hoping to determine what characteristics could be identified among them, and what this could tell about the characteristics of its occupation.

My workspace within the headquarters of the Museum of Western Zealand. Note that one cup of coffee was often insufficient for the magnitude of the task.

My workspace within the headquarters of the Museum of Western Zealand. Note that one cup of coffee was often insufficient for the magnitude of the task.

I was working in tandem with the museum of West Zealand, led by Niels Wickman. They were excellent hosts, and provided me with everything I could possibly need, even my own bike! After my first week there, Niels was even able to find me a small apartment to stay in, which provided a welcome relief from the icy Danish spring. In addition to working at the museum’s offices in Holbaek, I was also lucky enough to visit the storage facilities in Kalundborg, and check out an excavation that the museum was undertaking of a Neolithic settlement.

Blade 1

A blade from the site of M.T. Næs

The fieldtrip was a great success, and I was able to record all of the material from the site in the two weeks I was away. I have yet to begin my analysis but I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out of it. Stay tuned for further developments!

Dinosaurs are not Archaeology, but what is?


I had tinkered with different ideas for this post, but seeing as it was my first ever blog, where better to look for an idea than my first ever dig! Where I learned (finally) what archaeology really is.


Whenever I reply to the question, “what do you do?” with the answer “archaeology”, I am often met with the same misinformed replies of “dinosaurs’!” or “oh, like Indiana Jones?” As a result I am repeatedly forced to attempt to correct their presumptions. “Archaeology is the study of the human past through the analysis of material remains” I say, paraphrasing dry academic quotations from university textbooks, and, while such phrases have relevance to me, I can see most people’s eyes glaze over at this point.

This left me to wonder, why? To me, archaeology is fascinating and exciting, but I could never seem to translate that into words well enough to convince people. Then I had the opportunity to be part of the Advanced Archaeology Field School. I had the chance to excavate the Magpie Creek Ruin in Sturt Gorge. I had the privilege to pull up my sleeves, get down on my knees and dig. To see history literally coming out of the ground before my very eyes, to sieve artefacts from seemingly innocuous dirt, to turn an overgrown pile of rubble into a near complete horse skeleton! To see firsthand the magic of archaeology.


And then I realized something. The reason I couldn’t fully explain archaeology before this point was because I hadn’t lived it yet. I had read about it, watched it, learned it, but never lived it. Well now I have, and I finally understand why I couldn’t convince others of how amazing archaeology really is. It’s because they haven’t lived it yet either. So, if ever you walk past a dig or know of one in your area, I encourage you to pop along, ask a few questions and see for yourselves just what archaeology is. Who knows, you might love it as much as I do.

Three shipwrecks for the register!: DEWNR Southeast Coast Shipwreck Survey, SA

Date: 27 November–­4 December 2014

Staff/Volunteers: Amer Khan (DEWNR); Simon Carter (DEWNR); Guy Williams (DEWNR); Anthony Virag (DEWNR); Dr Brad Duncan (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage); Kurt Bennett (Flinders University Volunteer); Daniel Petraccaro (Flinders University Volunteer) and David Hanna (DEWNR).

Amer Khan, SA state maritime heritage officer presenting the project to the Carpenter Rocks community. Courtesy of Anthony Virag.

Figure 1. Amer Khan, SA state maritime heritage officer presenting the project to the Carpenter Rocks community. Courtesy of Anthony Virag.

On Monday 1 December, the Carpenter Rocks community hall hosted Amer Khan who gave a talk about the Southeast Shipwreck Survey Project (Figure 1). A number of the local community turned out for the presentation and later shared their knowledge about the area. This provided Amer with new leads, which will hopefully warrant further investigations along the southeast coast. Brad Duncan also gave a presentation on the William Salthouse archaeology project in Victoria. This demonstrated to the community what maritime archaeologists actually do and how unlawful salvage damages everyone’s cultural heritage. When shown pictures of destruction caused by relic hunters, many shook their heads in disbelief. Both presentations were well received by the attendees.

The research team revisited Pisces Star on Tuesday 2 December. Kurt prepared himself for snorkeling out to the shipwreck to assess the condition of the vessel. Due to the currents surrounding the vessel, the snorkeler was tethered to a divers assistant onshore (Figures 2 and 3). Using an offset method from a shore based datum, the onshore team recorded three points marking the stern, midships and bow section. Pisces Star, although shipwrecked in 1997, will be registered on the South Australian shipwreck database and information made accessible for future research.

Next, the team surveyed an area northwest of Pisces Star, where a local abalone diver reported ship timbers. A swim line search consisting of five snorkelers, spreading 25m, covered an area of 150m to search for the timbers (Figures 4 and 5). No one located the reported timbers, but snorkelers observed five iron poles measuring 1m in length. Whilst the poles are cultural, they could not be linked to a shipwreck in the area. Carl and Gary von Stanke, local shipwreck enthusiasts, joined the team for the snorkel and shared their knowledge and history of the local shipwrecks.

Kurt Bennett, Carl von Stanke and Daniel Petraccaro recording Erie. Courtesy of Brad Duncan.

Figure 6. Kurt Bennett, Carl von Stanke and Daniel Petraccaro recording Erie. Courtesy of Brad Duncan.

Erie, the last vessel recorded on this expedition, is a 1940 clinker built transport vessel located at the north end of Lake Bonny in Canunda National Park. The survey team recorded the port (left) side of Erie measuring 5.25m in length. Unfortunately, the vessel was damaged by recent vandal activity where the port side had been pushed over and the keel snapped. Daniel, Kurt and Carl recorded the stem and planking using the baseline offset method (Figure 6).  In the short video below, Amer Khan talks about the construction and features of the vessel (*note—audio is quiet, it is recommended to turn up your volume).


On Wednesday 3 December, the survey team followed a lead of a possible shipwreck located in Cape Douglas. The site consisted of two timber posts, 4.25m apart. Daniel and Anthony excavated a 1m by 1m square trench around one of the posts to see if it was connected to other covered timbers (Figures 7 and 8). No other timbers were uncovered and concluded the posts were likely part of a slipway, jetty or fencing.

The project finished on Thursday 4 December, with the team driving back to Adelaide. In all, the project was a success with three vessels surveyed and will now be added to the shipwreck database. Other leads from the local community means, DEWNR will be visiting the southeast in the near future. Thank you to all the staff, volunteers and local community who have made the project go swimmingly. The whole week has been both educational and a joy—Carpenter “Rocks!”

by Kurt Bennett and Daniel Petraccaro

An Anchor and Pisces Star: DEWNR Southeast Coast Shipwreck Survey, SA

google earth

Survey Area. Google Earth. Accessed 02/12/14.

Date: 27 November–­4 December 2014

Staff/Volunteers: Amer Khan (DEWNR); Simon Carter (DEWNR); Guy Williams (DEWNR); Anthony Virag (DEWNR); Dr Brad Duncan (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage); Kurt Bennett (Flinders University Volunteer); Daniel Petraccaro (Flinders University Volunteer) and David Hanna (DEWNR).

This is our second blog on the archaeological study of newly identified shipwrecks at Carpenter Rocks in South Australia’s southeast. If you missed out on previous blog on the Hawthorn shipwreck; click here for the link.

Our next site of interest is a reported historic anchor located in Gerloff Bay at Carpenter Rocks. Abalone diver, Bryon Deak reported an anchor and general location to Amer Khan, the state maritime heritage officer. We launched Rapid, DEWNR’s research vessel at Buck’s Bay and anchored near the reported site. Amer and Brad geared up in dive gear on the boat and lead by Byron, they searched for the anchor. There was sadly no anchor identified from the survey. Increasing wind and ocean swells ceased the days dive activity all the team returned safely to Buck’s Bay.

Anthony guiding Brad and Amer who are diving near the possible anchor location. Photo courtesy of Daniel Petraccaro.


Brad and Amer geared up for diving. Photo courtesy of Daniel Petraccaro.







Due to the more favourable weather conditions in the afternoon, Anthony, Kurt and Daniel later snorkelled the area. A survey search was undertaken but still no anchor. At the end of the day, the team decided that there was a high possibility the anchor was buried and a metal detector and air probe survey of the area was necessary.


Eagleray swimming in gerloff bay. Photo courtesy of Daniel Petraccaro.

Due to good weather condition, the team decided to revisit gerloff bay. Daniel and Anthony snorkelled to the site location and placed a buoy while Amer and Kurt dived the potential targets. Amer and Kurt used a metal detector along multiple survey lines, but there was no sign of the anchor.

Our next plan was to record the shipwreck of the yacht Pisces Star, located at Cape Banks. The wreck is located 30 metres offshore in a strong tidal zone. We were able to take photos of the vessel, a GPS position and compass bearings. We would have liked to take measurements of the wreck but it was not possible due to the strong swell and the danger of a diver being caught in the strong currents.


Pisces Star near Cape Banks. Photo courtesy of Anthony Virag.

Recording the Pisces Star. Photo Courtesy of Anthony Virag.

Looking out to the Pisces Star. Photo courtesy of Anthony Virag.

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Cape Banks lighthouse and Pisces Star to the right. Photo Courtesy of Anthony Virag.

Over the next couple of days, we will be recording the Pisces Star, revisiting gerloff bay, and hopefully looking for a wreck at Lake Bonnie.
Stay in tune for more updates.

Kurt Bennett and Daniel Petraccaro

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Romance, scandal and maritime archaeology in Victoria

During my directed study, I’ve been researching 18 shipwrecks lying in Victorian state waters. I’ve researched the history of shipwreck significance, worked out how shipwreck significance is assessed and begun the process of assessing significance for some of those wrecks.

Some shipwrecks have turned out to be significant because of the events surrounding their working lives, some because of the results of the studies of archaeologists examining their wrecks. Either way the waters of Port Phillip and the surrounding Victorian coastline shelter some very interesting shipwrecks.

Here’s just a taste:

Loch Ard is one of the most famous shipwrecks in Victoria. A three-masted square-rigged iron sailing ship, Loch Ard left England on 2 March 1878 with a general cargo of luxury items and industrial loads of railway iron and cement. On 1 June, the ship was only a day or two out from Melbourne near Cape Otway when heavy fog descended.

Loch Ard. Image courtesy Heritage Victoria

Loch Ard. Image courtesy Heritage Victoria

When the fog lifted, the Captain, instead of clear ocean and a distant shoreline, was faced with sheer cliffs and breaking waves. I can’t even begin to imagine what that felt like. The ship hit the reef just off Mutton Bird Island and large waves caused the masts and rigging to crash down so the lifeboats couldn’t be launched successfully. Tom Pearce, one of the crew, and passenger Eva Carmichael were the only two on board who survived (Lomdahl 1992).

Just five bodies (out of 47) were ever recovered. Eva lost all her immediate family and would have died herself if Tom Pearce hadn’t come to her rescue. If life were a Hollywood movie, Eva and Tom, both eighteen, would have sailed happily off into the sunset. Society of the day certainly thought they should at least get married since they had spent time alone, drinking brandy before Tom went to find help (ignoring the fact it was dark, cold and Tom needed to catch his breath before attempting to climb the cliffs). But it wasn’t Hollywood and instead Eva went back to Ireland and married a Captain Townsend while Tom went back to the sea. Ironically, Eva and her husband moved to the Irish coast where she was called on to help shipwreck survivors … one of whom (apparently) turned out to be Tom Pearce (The Argus 16 June 1934). This is a Hollywood script just crying out to be written.

The Loch Ard Peacock. Image courtesy Victorian Collections.

Image courtesy Victorian Collections.

A few days after the wreck, a crate containing a large ceramic peacock was washed ashore in Loch Ard Gorge. The Minton Loch Ard Peacock is one of the more famous pieces of cargo saved from the wreck. The porcelain statue, valued at over $4 million, is one of only nine still existing worldwide and was arriving in Australia to be displayed at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. It finally got its chance to shine at the 1988 Brisbane World Expo. The peacock is currently on display at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warnambool, Victoria.

Then there’s Clarence, a small coastal wooden sailing ship, indistinguishable from many vessels plying their trade around the southern coast of Australia during the 1840s and 1850s. Clarence sailing past would have been a bit like watching a semi-trailer driving down the highway. You might idly wonder what it was carrying before it disappeared from view; then again you might not. However, Clarence’s brief and unglamorous career as a small trading schooner belies its subsequent importance to archaeological and historical studies of undocumented Australian shipbuilding (Harvey 1989).

Clarence line drawing. Image courtesy Heritage Victoria

Clarence line drawing. Image courtesy Heritage Victoria

I’m sure Clarence’s builders from the Williams River in NSW never imagined their work would be so scrutinised. Remember people, whatever you build today may be examined in 200 years by an archaeologist trying to piece together your work … make sure it’s good (or if you want to have some fun, make it cryptic)!

Clarence is currently the subject of an Australian Research Council grant studying the excavation, reburial and in-situ preservation of shipwrecks and their artefacts. I was fortunate enough to be a volunteer when, in 2012, Clarence was excavated, wrapped in geo-textile, covered in shade cloth and tarpaulin and weighed down by 3,500 sandbags. As a result, Clarence may still be there for archaeologists to study in 1000 years time and I can now add ‘professional sandbag filler’ to my resumé.

A small section of Clarence reburial .... Image Jon Carpenter

A small section of Clarence reburial …. Image Jon Carpenter

One vessel not often in the public eye is the clipper ship, Schomberg. Schomberg had no statement of significance in the Victorian database and when I started researching I had no idea what I’d discover. What I did find was a tale of pride, scandal and narrowly avoided tragedy. Schomberg’s story was almost the nineteenth century’s version of Titanic: built at great expense, labeled the most perfect clipper ship ever built, designed to be the most comfortable, luxurious and fastest vessel to sail to Melbourne—and it sank on its maiden voyage in 1855. Fortunately, the steamer SS Queen was close enough to come to the rescue of the 430 passengers and crew.

Captain 'Bully' Forbes. Image courtesty Project Marco Polo

Captain ‘Bully’ Forbes. Image courtesty Project Marco Polo

The Captain, ‘Bully’ Forbes, was charged in the Supreme Court with negligence because of the suspicion that he was playing cards with two female passengers below decks while his ship ran aground. None of the passengers spoke terribly highly of him, complaining that he strutted the deck with a loaded revolver and that half-naked women were emerging from his cabin at all hours of the night. Despite a protest meeting, two inquiries and the court proceedings, he was found not guilty and cleared of all charges on the grounds of insufficient evidence (Uhl 1985:24).

As an aside, Schomberg was built using the ‘diagonal principle’: its frame was British oak with layers of Scottish larch fitted diagonally to the frames, apparently the same design as Queen Victoria’s newly acquired yacht. Interestingly, pieces of hull with this distinctive design feature were washed up on the New Zealand coast and were thought to be a part of Schomberg‘s hull (Lomdahl 1992).

The clipper ship, Schomberg. Photo Heritage Victoria

The clipper ship, Schomberg. Image courtesy Heritage Victoria.

This is just a brief journey through three Victorian shipwreck histories that grabbed my attention, there is more to tell for each but space is brief. While it takes more than just romance, scandal and maritime archaeology to make a vessel significant, each adds to the fabric of the story that makes up the life and wreck of a ship.


Harvey, P. 1989 Excavation of the Shipwreck Clarence: Port Phillip Bay October 1987. Victoria: Victoria Archaeology Survey, Maritime Heritage Unit.

Lomdahl, A., 1992 Underwater Shipwreck Discovery Trail. Victoria: Victoria Archaeological Survey, Maritime Archaeological Unit.

Mosely, M. 1934 ‘Eva Carmichael and Tom Pearce. Why they did not marry.’ The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.:1848-1957), 16 June, p. 4, retrieved 13 October 2013, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/10947161

Uhl, J. 1985 Sailing Ships, Shipwrecks and Crime in the 19th Century: A Handbook for Historians, Genealogists, Shiplovers and Criminologists based on Supreme Court Records, Criminal Sessions 1840s-1860s. Oakleigh, Victoria: Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies.