Tag Archives: South Australia

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

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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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Finishing up my directed study

By April Webb

It’s the end of semester and my directed study is done, hooray! (Not that I mean to imply that it wasn’t fun… of course.) It was a lot of work (50% research, 25% writing, 25% deleting the gibberish that my cats inserted while I wasn’t looking), but now I can say with confidence that I have a basic understanding of Indigenous heritage management in Australia. And now I can do more than nod politely and give a blank stare when people talk about legislation and government bodies that I previously knew nothing about. I’m sure that’s a good thing. In my previous blog posts I discussed the basic advantages of a regional governance system, and talked a little about the Ngarrindjeri and Torres Strait Regional Authorities. Here’s a summary of my final report.

This segment of Horton's map of Aboriginal Australia shows the locations of the four ARA Test Sites.

This segment of Horton’s map of Aboriginal Australia shows the locations of the four ARA Test Sites.

In July 2013 the Department of the Premier and Cabinet of the South Australian Government announced plans for implementing a system of Aboriginal Regional Authorities across the state. These Authorities would be responsible for a range of functions which would differ according to the needs and capabilities of each region, and would base their operations to an extent on the successful example of the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority. Submissions were received from a variety of interested parties, and in December 2013 test sites were chosen. They are:

• Narungga (Yorke Peninsula) – Narungga Aboriginal Corporation Regional Authority;
• Ngarrindjeri (Lower River Murray) – Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority;
• Port Augusta – Port Augusta Aboriginal Community Engagement Group; and
• Kaurna (Adelaide Plains) – Kaurna Nation Cultural Heritage Association.

My Directed Study project involved a study of existing ARAs and similar structures in order to determine how such bodies might function, and what their pros and cons might be.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, regionalism was generally seen as a desirable model for Indigenous governance, as evidenced in the academic literature on the subject and in submissions made to the South Australian Government on the topic by interested parties. A caveat was that regions should be decided by Indigenous people themselves and not be the product of ‘top-down’ approaches, such as that derived through census data. It was also noted that Regional Authorities would most likely need to have statutory authority  or some sort of legislative recognition in order to achieve effective governance, although there are some examples of bodies who are able to govern effectively without this, such as the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority. Funding was another major concern. It is likely that Regional bodies will require more intensive funding from the government in their early stages, and that this will enable them to become more self-sufficient as time goes on. The funding arrangements of existing bodies such as the NRA and Gumala Aboriginal Corporation provided insight into possible schemes for self-funding. Lastly, Aboriginal Regional Authorities might provide clarification in South Australia on whom to approach for heritage matters, and exactly how much authority Indigenous groups have in these instances.

So, I am happy to say that my report is finished and submitted! Now it’s the holidays, time for me to concentrate on other things, like watching TV and continuing with my botched attempts to learn to play the flute (sorry, neighbours). Oh, and continuing to work on this report. My industry partner has mentioned that we might be able to turn the report into a joint publication eventually, which is very exciting. So, still a lot of work to do!


It is time for another update on my Directed Study about South Australia’s founding father. I was sitting here, in front of my computer, writing a section for my Directed Study about how George Fife Angas was perceived by his peers and by the public. While I was researching this I struck upon something that I found particularly interesting and as I need to write these blog posts I thought I would share it with you as well.

According to some documents I have been reading, Angas was not particularly liked by his Barossa constituents during his 16 years as mayor. He was respected for his abilities as a businessman and for his common sense when dealing with legislation and colony growth. But he was also seen as a man who thought he was above everyone else and only he knew the right way. His overly pious attitude and his reserved demeanour when dealing with people he did not know probably didn’t win him any friends in the public either. Along with this he also voraciously collected on even the smallest of debts, which might have been a bad habit he picked up after going broke just before he came to Adelaide. His unlikability is not the thing I found interesting, however, it was that as soon as he died this view of him disappeared almost immediately. All of the newspapers and the public seemed to shift from this mentality to one that is now known for him being the founding father and one of South Australia’s most generous men. It was not until quite some time later that an unbiased look at him and his history was completed and this still didn’t shift the way the majority of the public saw him.

So this got me thinking, of all the great men and women in history both here in Australia and around the world, how many of them have been coloured by the information and stories that were written after their deaths? There has probably been research done on this subject but to see this unfold within my Directed Study is interesting, for me at least.

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.