Tag Archives: Port MacDonnell

From Ship to Shore to Hawthorn: Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Field School, 2013.

Figure One: Group photo in Port MacDonnell, SA. Photo taken by Nita von Stanke. 16/02/13.

By Daniel Petraccaro, Masters in Maritime Archaeology Student Flinders University.


Nothing can compare to the field school experience offered this year to the graduates enrolled in the Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Programme. The Maritime Archaeology field school was based at Port MacDonnell, in South Australia’s Southeast region, and was held from the 3rd to 16th of February. The rigorous two-week program offered students an introduction to techniques from underwater surveying, mapping, and photography to recording (figure 2).


Figure Two: Students Daniel Petraccaro and Hunter Brendel with Supervisor Gay Lascina start mapping the ketch Hawthorn. Photo by Chelsa Pasch. 06.02.13.

Continue reading

A Series of Small Walls

A lone dumpy stands on site.

A lone dumpy stands on site.

On the Monday of February 4th, a small group of novice archaeologists packed into a small bus and proceeded to the old lighthouse of Port MacDonnell to begin, for most, our first taste of field archaeology. The 11 archaeologists were divided into two groups of four, and a group of three. Of these, two groups were to commence a baseline/offset survey, and the other group was tasked with conducting a dumpy survey of the sight. I was a part of that dumpy team.

None of us knew what this consisted of.

The dumpy team quickly learnt the difficulty of conducting a dumpy survey on the edge of a cliff, along with a developing hatred of dense vegetation. Oh, and the local fly’s which bit and stung while resisting copious amounts of AeroGuard. The wind constantly barraged the 3 metre ranging pole, making readings difficult to get exact; but no amount of foul play from nature would stop us from producing that map. One particular issue, however, did not come from nature but the irritating lack of straight lines when recording the walls. Baffling us, it became clear after double checking our measurements that perhaps they just weren’t made straight and parallel.

In all, for our first field experience we could not have predicted a tougher way to learn; but this made us strong. At the end of the day, the dumpy team was working in perfect unison to create a rather nice, if a bit unfinished, map showing a cliff, dense vegetation and a series of small walls.

The Lighthouse That Was Hardly There…

On the morning of Sunday the 3rd of February, 11 Flinders archaeology students got onto a mini bus, bright eyed and bushy tailed. After 8 hours on said mini bus, with slightly dimmer eyes and flatter tails, we arrived at Port MacDonnell, where we would be staying for the next week for the historical archaeology field school.

Cataloging artefacts by a remaining wall of the old Port MacDonnell lighthouse

Cataloging artefacts by a remaining wall of the old Port MacDonnell lighthouse

The following day, bushy tailed once more, we headed to the site of the old Port MacDonnell lighthouse. From the bus I could see a picture perfect lighthouse in the distance, the inviting white and red striped building was practically begging for us to explore it. Confusion hit as we drove straight past the red and white wonder.  Continuing down the road we pulled into what appeared to be an empty seaside lookout point. Following a path, I was directed to a sign that told me I was standing at the site of the old lighthouse—there was even a plaque that showed the lighthouse floor plan, but all I saw was shrubbery.

Upon getting off the boardwalk and into the shrubbery, the stone walls left over from the lighthouse came into sight, as well as the masses of glass artefacts that were surrounding them. It became clear very quickly why the lighthouse was rebuilt further inland, as the remaining wall of the lighthouse was hanging off the edge of the cliff.

The lighthouse wall hangs off the edge of the cliff - safety first!

The lighthouse wall hangs off the edge of the cliff – safety first!

After spending three hot days collecting data (with a beautiful view might I add) I definitely learnt at least one thing…

Make sure you put sunscreen on the back of your hands.