Tag Archives: Port Adelaide

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.


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.


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.


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.

Communicating archaeology: children’s activities

By Rikke Hammer (Master of Cultural Heritage Management student)

As part of the Port Festival 2011 public archaeology event in Port Adelaide a number of interactive  activities were run specifically aimed at children. The activities were themed around the analytical process in archaeological research and encouraged the children to observe, predict, record data and make conclusions.  On site, children were engaged with assembling broken ceramic vessels with tape.  Drawing the assembled object and completing an activity sheet, borrowed from “The Young Archaeologist’s Club” in Britain, the children were asked to touch, feel, observe and answer questions about their object.

In supplement to the above on-site activities I conceptualized and designed a take-home activity for distribution at the event aimed at children aged 6+ years old. The activity is also well-suited to families. The remainder of this blog post explains the ideas and principles that went into this work.

The activity, titled ”Jane Street Post-excavation Analysis”  is based on the principles of tiered communication and interactive presentation.  The activity focus on the site formation processes evident at the Jane Street site – which was also the location of the public archaeology stand – and tied in with other interpretive materials created for the event: a stratigraphy poster and a life-size reconstruction of a section of the Jane Street  excavation trench (excavated by Susan Briggs as part of her PhD). The intended sum effect of this strategy was to  create a greater sense of place and to add relevance to the learning by providing an opportunity for children and their parents to explore and puzzle-solve questions similar to those asked by the archaeologists about the site during the 2003 excavation.  A third intended purpose was to illustrate the importance of (and relationship between) stratigraphy, chronology and material remains in archaeological interpretation.

The activity is designed in a z-folded brochure format with three panels (six pages) and makes use of strong contrasting colours, varying font sizes and styles and alternating text colours to create a fun look.

The layout and content of the brochure is shown in Figures 1-4 and described below:

Figure 1 Kids activity brochure Z-folded (front)



Panel 1
Page 1



Panel 2
Page 2



Panel 3
Page 3

Figure 2 Kids activity brochure Z-folded (back)






Panel 1
Page 4



Panel 2
Page 5



Panel 3
Page 6

Figure 3 Kids activity brochure: Front (folded)

Figure 4 Kids activity brochure: Back (folded)


Page 1  provides a complete view of the Jane Street trench profile that forms the interpretive basis for the activity.

Page 4  forms that back side of the brochure and introduces and sets out the tasks of the activity. (See Figure 2 and 4)


Page 2  is both a key to the stratigraphic profile and an answer sheet.

Page 5  provides hints for helping to solve the puzzle of how the site formed and answering  the questions set out in the activity. The hints provided include the Law of Superposition, relevant historical information about the site and basic advice for solving questions of chronology.


Page 3  forms the front side of the brochure and contains the stratigraphic layers as puzzle pieces that can be cut out and used to understand how the site formed over time.  Only project and industry partner logos (displayed on the reverse side (page 6) will be compromised when the pieces are cut out.

Page 6  Project and industry partner logos

In summary, the main intended interpretive outcomes for the activity were:

  1. to introduce the children to key concepts and terminology used in archaeology;
  2. to equip the children to make their own interpretations of the past using some of the same methods as archaeologists; and
  3.  to convey the message that the past is like a puzzle that needs be connected by many different pieces of information before a picture can emerge.


Public interpretation and the Port Adelaide Community Archaeology Project

By Rikke Hammer, Graduate Student

This blog post is the first in a series of seven reflecting on various aspects of my four week industry practicum with post-graduate student Adam Paterson at Flinders University. Adam is doing his Phd research on understanding how public participation in archaeological research can contribute to and improve management of cultural heritage. The research forms part of the Port Adelaide Community Archaeology Project and is funded by the Australian Research Council. Also supporting the project are the South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage, the South Australian Maritime Museum and Archaeological and Heritage Management Solutions (Paterson n/d).

The Port Adelaide Community Archaeology project has involved several excavations around Port Adelaide, an area unique for its buried landscape of 19th century buildings and artefacts resulting from continuous deposition of sediment material to prevent against flooding. One of these excavations, the site of two 19th century working class family homes in Jane Street, excavated by Susan Briggs in 2003, will form the basis of a public archaeology event to be held during the Port Festival in Port Adelaide on 8 & 9 October 2011. It was  preparations for this public happening that occupied my time during the first week of the practicum. The event will be executed as an interactive “meet the archaeologist” event and will include opportunities for people to test their archaeological illustration skills as well as explore the practical and interpretive aspects of archaeology through learning how archaeologists read the soil and its contents. One idea for the event is to reconstruct the stratigraphic profile of two separate sections of Briggs’ 2003 excavation trench that illustrate different aspects of the site and the archaeological process and to incorporate authentic artefacts from the excavation. Plates 1 and 2 shows the sections selected for reconstruction.

Plate 1 Section one, collapsed wall.

Plate 2 Section two, brick, stone and cobble floor and vertical stratigraphy of yellow sand lenses underlying grey beach sand.

As part of the public outreach program heritage posters will also be produced. My task specifically, was to identify the stratigraphic contexts and artefacts found in the sections of Brigg’s trench that Adam wants to recreate based on photographs and site records. A second task involved reading up on interpretive archaeology focusing on tiered communication and interactive presentation strategies.  My next blog will focus more on the topic of public archaeology and the latter two concepts that are core to a well-designed and successful interpretation program.

Paterson, A. n/d Port Adelaide Community Archaeology. Retrieved 12 August
2011 from http://www.flinders.edu.au/ehl/archaeology/research-

Industry partners:
South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/
The South Australian Maritime Museum: http://www.history.sa.gov.au/maritime/maritime.htm
Archaeological and Heritage Management Solutions: http://www.ahms.com.au/