Tag Archives: Maritime Archaeology

Drowning in a sea of information: The search for the graves of the victims of the Loch Sloy shipwreck (1899)

The Loch Sloy project: Part 3

For over six months in 2011 and 2012 I was involved in a research project which was conducted by Amer Khan at DEWNR (Department of the Environment, Water and Natural  Resources), the purpose of which was to find the graves of the people who had perished when the barque Loch Sloy sank off the south-western coast of Kangaroo Island.

We had already looked at primary documents from State Records of South Australia, which pretty much confirmed what had been documented previously by both Robert McKinnon (1993) and Gifford Chapman (2007).  We had met with Mr Chapman and had gained valuable connections to the May family of Kangaroo Island (see blog post number 2), whose ancestors had been predominant in the rescue of the four survivors and in the burial of eleven bodies.  The only clue we had from these sources was a cairn that supposedly pointed to where the wreck was sited, and the grave of Mr Kilpatrick who had survived the wreck only to die onshore (see blog post number 1).

The cairn indicating the position of the wreck of the Loch Sloy, courtesy Amer Khan, 2012.

A photograph in both texts by McKinnon and Chapman indicated a cliff face that denoted the beach where the ship had sunk.  Our next task was to pull together all these pieces of information to try and locate a possible grave site for the 11 bodies that had washed to shore in the weeks following the wreck.  Then we discovered Trove!  Trove is a resource of online newspapers organised by the National Library of Australia and here I issue a warning!  It is very addictive!

Two newspapers on Trove, the Adelaide Advertiser and the S.A. Register, provided vital information on the possible position of the graves.  On Friday 19th May 1899, The Register reporter, who was part of the search party, reported that 11 bodies had been found and stated that nine of them had been ‘rudely buried within half a mile of each other’, and that Trooper Shegog had made notes.  The article also gave us the information that the bodies had been found on the beach and on the rocks below the cliffs.   Another report detailed an interview with Charles May.  This also provided good information and pinpointed the discovery to the foot of the cliffs.  Mr May also described, in detail, the route that he and Mr Hoskings took in their search.

A view of cliffs on Kangaroo Island, courtesy Cameron Hartnell, 2012

While this information was extremely useful, we still did not have a definitive location for the burials.  One reason was the naming of the beaches, which have changed over time and, secondly, our inability to locate the notes made by Trooper Shegog.  Our next source of information was to provide us with possibilities.  We examined the coastline with the aid of Google Earth and pinpointed possible locations that fitted in with the descriptions from the newspapers, texts, and our meeting with Mr and Mrs May, the descendants of Charles May.

Armed with all this information, it was decided that it would be worthwhile organising an expedition to Kangaroo Island to see if any further excavations or investigations would be useful.

My next blog will detail the discoveries we made on two expeditions to Kangaroo Island.

References

Chapman, G. 2007 Kangaroo Island Shipwrecks. South Australia: Chapman.

McKinnon R. 1993 Shipwreck Sites of Kangaroo Island. Adelaide: State Heritage Branch, Dept. of Environment and Land Management.

South Australian Register, Friday 19 May 1899, p6.

Adelaide Advertiser, Thursday 18 May 1899, p6.

International ‘Talk Like a Shipwright’ Week

Wednesday 19th September was International ‘Talk Like A Pirate’ Day, however Flinders University, Ships: Research, Recording and Reconstruction students were learning the language of shipwrights. During the one week intensive course led by maritime archaeology lecturer, Dr Wendy van Duivenvoorde, 15 internal and external undergraduate, postgraduate and short course students learnt the basics of ships lines, timber fragment recording and calculating co-efficients.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the students were divided into two groups and took it in turns to record the port and starboard ships lines of the historic 1950s Cadet dinghy, Noctoo, part of the South Australian Maritime Museum collection. Noctoo is a clinker built vessel, meaning the planks are overlapped rather than flush with each other (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Noctoo resting in its cradle at South Australia Maritime Museum storage. (W. van Duivenvoorde 9 September 2012).

Under the guidance of the ever patient and encouraging Bill Leonard, Curator in Maritime History at the Western Australian Museum and master shipwright of the Endeavour and Duyfken reconstructions, the class learnt how to take ships lines using a traditional method: joggle sticks. After establishing a centre line from the bow to the stern of the vessel, four stations were set up at a quarter, half and three quarters of the length of the vessel, with the fourth at the transom (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Bill Leonard establishing the centre line using a plumb bob. (W. van Duivenvoorde 19 September 2012).

A right-angled board was held perpendicular to the vessel at the station being recorded and the joggle stick was placed on the point to be recorded, usually the edge of a plank or where one plank met another. The outline of the joggle stick was traced where it met the perpendicular board, a process which took many hands to ensure accuracy (Figure 3). This continued until all the points at one station were drawn.

Figure 3: Michael, Caitlin, Maddy and Matt using a joggle stick to record the position of a planking edge. (M. Polzer 20 September 2012).

Then the board was placed onto a large sheet of MDF and the joggle stick was lined up with the tracing. A dot was made on the MDF where the point was (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Kurt and Janet marking the joggle stick position on the MDF board. (M. Polzer 20 September 2012).

After all the points were added they were joined up and the outside shape of the clinker planking could be seen. For ship lines, however, the moulded dimensions are needed, which is the inside the planking. As the planking was 10mm thick, 10mm was taken off the drawing. Then, using a spline, a fair curve could be drawn through the points (Figure 5). It was from this curve that dimensions were taken to create the lines drawing.

Figure 5: Gay, Caitlin and Michael fairing the curve using a spline. Many hands make light work. (M. Polzer 20 September 2012).

Three water lines were established and the distance from each of these to the centre line, as well as the distance from the sheer line to the centre line and the height from the baseline to the sheer line were recorded (Figure 6). The sided (width) and moulded (depth) dimensions of the keel and skeg were also taken. This process was repeated at each station.

Figure 6: Recording three stations on the MDF completed. The horizontal water lines can be seen. (M. Polzer 20 September 2012).

Students were also able to try other techniques for taking ships lines, including a goniometer and laser (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Kurt holding a piece of white paper to give the laser something to reflect off. (M. Polzer 20 September 2012).

Following the recording of the vessel, each student produced a ships lines drawing. A lines drawing consists of three views of the vessel: the sheer plan, half-breadth plan and body plan (Figure 8). Each view shows the station lines, water lines and buttock lines of the vessel, as well as the sheer line. During this process it became evident that an eraser is the most valuable tool in the drafting toolkit.

Figure 8: Caitlin’s lines drawing of Noctoo showing sheer plan (bottom left), half-breadth plan (top left) and body plan (bottom right). (W. van Duivenvoorde 25 September 2012).

Other highlights during the course included learning about sails and rigging from traditional sail maker Don Lucas. The effort and attention to detail that goes into making sails was surprising to many.

By the end of the week students were able to understand the difference between a hog and a skeg, a luff and a leech, and a buttock line and a water line. Many thanks to Emily Jateff from the South Australian Maritime Museum for giving us the opportunity to translate what we were learning on paper into practice, by recording Noctoo. Also thanks to all the guest lecturers: Bill Leonard, Don Lucas and Mark Polzer.

The Killer Coast of Kangaroo Island

By Lynda Bignell
Masters Candidate, Flinders University, South Australia

In September 2011 I was invited to do some research on a maritime archaeology project on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.  This opportunity arose from me expressing my interest in coastal archaeology to Jennifer McKinnon, lecturer at Flinders University.

I was to work with Amer Khan, maritime archaeologist at DEWNR (Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources), South Australia, on a project investigating coastal archaeology on a section of Kangaroo Island from Cape Borda to Cape du Couedic.  In particular, we were investigating four shipwrecks along that coast.  These were the Emily Smith (1877), the Mars (1885), the Loch Sloy (1899) and the Loch Vennachar(1905).  These are well known shipwrecks and the task was focussed on finding the graves of the victims of the Loch Sloy shipwreck.

Funding had been acquired from the Commonwealth Government for projects involving coastal archaeology, in an attempt to learn more about the coastal history and archaeology of Australia.  Other research volunteers, who were already working on the project were Terry Smith and Adrian Brown.

My first task was to follow up some enquiries that Adrian Brown had initiated with State Records at the facility at Gepps Cross, Adelaide.   I had used the State Records facility in the city a few years ago, and it was easy to re-activate my membership card.  The archivists were very helpful, both in instructing me in the use of the database search system and suggesting other resources that could be helpful.

There were two obvious resources that could have given us information on the location of the graves.  These were the official inquiry records and the coroner’s report.  The coroner’s report was quickly discounted as these records had been recycled in World War II.  The inquiry records proved to be more useful, and I photographed each page, as reading it there would have been too time consuming.   These records are handwritten and obviously written at the time of the inquiry, making the writing more and more illegible.  However, they produced a lot of useful information that would lead to further sources of information.

The inquiry included information about the ship, the crew, the cargo and the passengers and its movements from Glasgow to Adelaide.  The Loch Sloy was owned by the Glasgow Shipping Company and was part of a fleet including the Loch Vennachar, which also sank in this area off Kangaroo Island.  The inquiry interviewed people associated with the shipwreck including the apprentice Simpson, one of the survivors.  It also gave an indication as to where the ship had foundered, which was of particular interest to the project group.

In my next blog, I will talk about the oral histories we conducted and how we met the descendants of the May family, who assisted the survivors, and also how easy it is to become addicted to Trove, the online newspaper resource of the National Library of Australia.

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.

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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