Tag Archives: Historical Archaeology

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.

The Plates that Conquered the World.

You’ve all seen it.

Chances are you’ve got a grandmother/neighbour/maiden aunt who proudly presents this ubiquitous blue and white tableware whenever the occasion allows for it. And indeed, as of 1990, willow pattern represents the longest continually produced china pattern in history, so its frequency is somewhat understandable.

In the 18th century Chinese porcelain was imported into England by companies such as the East India Company and quickly became hugely popular with wealthy clients. When its trade ceased, most local manufacturers quickly developed their own version of the blue and white patterns in an effort to meet continuing demand. The improvements to transfer printing made by Josiah Spode allowed for much cheaper, more available wares, and in 1790 the first willow pattern was produced on pearlware at the Spode factory. Thus, a superstar was born.

But what superstar is complete without a salubrious past?

This one comes complete with a tale of star-crossed lovers – the Mandarin’s daughter and the secretary, and the immortality of their love beyond death. Or, if that’s a little too Romeo and Juliet for you: the destruction of a Shaolin Monastery by imperial Manchu soldiers, and the souls’ passage to the isle of the Blessed.

There are poems, films, and even a comic opera of this ‘great legend’, but despite this rich history, its origins remain stalwartly British, with only the barest relation to the Chinese mythologies and fine hand-painted porcelain that inspired it.

Over the years Blue Willow pattern has conquered not only local markets, but has filtered out into the rest of the world, becoming an iconic symbol of British ceramics. And the source of many of these newly produced pieces? Why, China of course. It appears that the willow pattern story has finally come full circle.

ArchSoc’s Trip to Port Arthur

A few weeks have passed since the Flinders Archaeological Society (ArchSoc) sent six of our members and two of our committee to help the Port Arthur Historic Sites Management Authority (PAHSMA) with their artefact collection from the 2011 Hobart Penitentiary Chapel excavations.

From left to right- Back: David Roe, Jeanne Harris, Tom Lally, Ilona Bartsch, Maxim Ayres and Louisa Fischer. Front: Andrew Wilkinson, Leah Ralph, Annita Waghorn, Lauren Davison and Holly Winter.

As you can see from the blog entries that the participants wrote at the end of each day, everyone enjoyed themselves and learnt a lot. This is the first time ArchSoc has organised a field trip like this and it is a testament to the dedication and organisation of this year’s committee that the trip went off without a hitch.

On behalf of ArchSoc, I would like to thank those that helped make this trip possible from the onset. Thanks go to Claire Smith, whose networking made this possible, Natalie Bittner, who along with myself, conducted the initial consultations with PAHSMA, and to David Roe and Annita Waghorn from PAHSMA, who were both more than happy to host several student volunteers.

BBQ in the Plaza @ Flinders

I would also like to thank those that helped in the planning stages and those that helped us in our more-than-successful fundraising BBQ and Bake Sale including the ArchSoc Committee and staff from the Department of Archaeology. There are too many individuals to name, but you all know who you are.

Thanks to everyone that applied to go on this trip, sorry we couldn’t accommodate all of you and to Andrew Wilkinson and Tom Lally who co-ordinated the trip at short notice when it was clear that I could no longer attend.

Lastly, a very big thank you goes to Jeanne Harris, David Roe and Annita Waghorn from PAHSMA for hosting ArchSoc on what was a very successful trip. We hope this is the start of a long relationship.

Bake Sale in the Humanities Courtyard

The professionalism of our committee and participants is highlighted in an email that David Roe sent to me shortly after the trip:

“From our perspective the week was a great success: we were able to get a number of important fieldwork jobs done and a significant hole has been made in the cataloguing task for the Penitentiary Chapel assemblage.  Jeanne, Annita and I were impressed with the Flinders contingent: they worked hard and were a pleasure to have around.  Their enthusiasm and conduct reflects most admirably upon the Flinders ArchSoc in particular and the University in general.  Please accept our thanks for having organised and underwritten the trip; we look forward to more such visits in the future.”

Again, thanks to all involved!

Jordan Ralph

President, Flinders Archaeological Society

Sorting artefacts in the Port Arthur lab

This post originally featured on ArchSoc’s blog @ www.flindersarchsoc.com

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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COMMUNICATING ARCHAEOLOGY: CREATING INTERPRETIVE POSTERS

By Rikke Hammer (Master of Cultural Heritage Management student)

One component of my industry practicum with PhD student Adam Paterson involved producing interpretive materials for a public archaeology event held during the Port Festival on November 8 and 9 2011.  Applying the principles of tiered communication and interactive presentation, I conceptionalized and designed two posters and one children’s activity brochure for use at the event.

HOW DO ARCHAEOLOGISTS READ THE SOIL ?

The first poster I created was to accompany and supplement a life size reconstruction of a section of the 2003 Port Adelaide Jane Street excavation trench. The poster had two main aims. First, to provide a brief introduction to the stratigraphic principles and methods used by archaeologists to decipher the past; and second, to engage the visitor by stimulating thoughts and questions about the depositional events that formed the Jane Street site over time and how identifying these events is critical to understanding the site’s history.

The poster makes use of the strong base colours of orange and cobalt blue and a lighter grey for eye-catching contrast. In addition, headlines in italic typeface and different sized text were used as attention grabbers. The main focus of the poster is a large scale photograph of a section of the Jane Street trench that largely corresponds to the area represented by the reconstructed section profile. Dashed lines and text describe the stratigraphy of the section, while the orange column to the right explains the law of superposition and asks questions that engage and demonstrate to the visitor how archaeologists read the soil to infer information about the past. The poster can stand on its own without further explanation or it can be used as supplementary information to the reconstructed section profile.

At the Port Festival event in Port Adelaide both the poster and the brochure operated at a further interpretive level, as the location of the public archaeology stand was at the site of the 2003 Jane Street excavation trench. Visitors were therefore able to directly relate the information from the interpretive materials to the buried landscape beneath their feet, thereby making the information more relevant to their here-and-now experience and contributing to a greater sense of place.

WHAT IS ARCHAEOLOGY?

The popular perception of archaeology is often linked with the recovery of megafaunal remains or influenced by media portrayals, such as the action-packed adventures and mysteries of ‘Indiana Jones’ and one-sided documentaries about golden treasures and lost civilizations.  Another common, but too narrow, understanding of archaeology is that of excavation and of the archaeologist as an excavator.  This issue was addressed with the second poster titled: “What is archaeology?”.

The conceptualization of the poster was loosely inspired by previous work by myself in a non-archaeological context and by the interpretive signage strategy at the Kings Reach tobacco plantation site in Maryland, USA.  Also key to the design are the principles of tiered communication.

The three base colours, blue, orange and gray, used in the stratigraphy poster above were carried through to the ‘What is archaeology’ poster for aesthetic coherence. The interpretive content centers around six themes that convey archaeology as a logical process from the discovery of sites and objects through to their management. The integrated use of imagery, text and colour coding to convey the message was critical to the design philosophy of the poster.  Each theme was assigned a colour for ease of navigation around the poster.  For example, all information (pictorial or text) pertaining to the theme of fieldwork were indicated by the colour blue. The visitor then has two choices: to experience the story of each theme in pictures, horizontally, or to obtain more detailed information via the text. By colour coding the themes visitors are able to easily and selectively extract the level and depth of information they require for each theme.

The Jane Street archaeology stand at the Port Festival also displayed posters that informed visitors of the 2003 Jane Street excavation and about how artefacts recovered at the site have contributed a better understanding of the working class value of ‘respectability’ in the Port during the 19th century.  These posters were produced by Adam Paterson. In addition, the ‘Take the Plunge’ team drew  attention to their cause to get Australia to ratify  the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage through the display of a poster on the subject.