Author Archives: cmorris01

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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HMB Endeavour Makes Port

Although HMB Endeavour arrived 90 minutes late into Port Adelaide due to the rail bridge malfunctioning, the vessel has made its mark on the Port. Monday 20th saw a small group of Flinders students join the hundreds boarding the ship, and many more passers-by simply coming to have a look.

We were met by a guide as we stepped onto the vessel, who began to explain various aspects of the ship in our immediate vicinity such as the operation of the anchor, the cannons and the ‘washing machine’ (better known as a bucket with salt-water). Moving then to the foredeck, more information was given, this time concerning the toilet and the piece of unwoven wet rope used in place of toilet paper. We then had the experience of going below deck and learning about life on board.

Throughout the tour, groups were passed on to each area’s guide and given a glimpse of what like would have been like on board the vessel. Moving through the cramped spaces, into rooms only 4ft high, and up narrow staircases, while fun the first time, would have been awful after months on board. We soon escaped into the open air again, after being shown both Sir Joseph Banks quarters and Captain James Cook’s quarters. The last part of the tour was an explanation of steering and some of the guide’s experiences on sailing the ship recently (now with GPS).

Leaving Endeavour felt rushed, like there was more to see. Perhaps this is from being ushered through the rooms as the guide in front becomes free or simply that only some rooms are open for visitors. To view the entire ship I would have had to sail with it or volunteer to be a night guard or guide (all quite tempting but too late now). However, I also left feeling full of new information and things to go look up later on Google.

To have missed this opportunity would have been unfortunate, as its not everyday that a tall ship sails into Adelaide.

I would recommend any one with the chance to visit Endeavour before it closes on Thursday, or even to view its departure on Friday, to do so. There is also still time to volunteer on board at its next port, Portland, Victoria (applications due 27th Feb). For more information about the Endeavour see its webpage http://www.endeavourvoyages.com.au/.


Written and Photographed by Cassandra Morris

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Taking the Plunge at the 2011 AIMA Conference, Brisbane.

By Cassandra Morris

On the 2nd and 3rd of September, the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA) held their annual conference at the Queensland Museum, South Bank, Brisbane. This year’s theme was ‘Forging the Links’, looking at the connections made to effectively preserve our maritime heritage. A group from Flinders consisting of students and staff travelled to the conference, including a mix of presenters and those there for moral support. Once the conference was in full swing, Flinders appeared to make up a good portion of the attendees, especially when taking into account the number of past students present. Presentations given at the conference were of a wide variety – ranging from students presenting on their thesis ideas and progress (myself included) to recent wreck discoveries, cannibalism, investigation techniques and current research projects. Three public lectures were also given as part of the conference which anyone was welcome to join. By the end of the two days, it was clear that Flinders had done well with approximately half the presentations at the conference given by current staff and students. At the closing of the conference awards were given to presenters for ‘best presentations’. This year our own Wendy van Duivenvoorde won the award for ‘Best Conference Paper’ and Honours student Maddy Fowler won ‘Best Student Conference Paper’.

The conference also presented an opportunity for a small initiative to gain recognition outside of South Australia. This initiative, “Take the Plunge – Protect Australia’s Heritage”, is a student initiated cause to promote the need for the Australian Government to ratify the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Currently based through Facebook, the initiative has six pre-written letters, addressed to prominent governmental members, which are available for everyone to download, add personal details, and post. Alternatively, these letters can be emailed to their addressees. AIMA 2011 Conference was the perfect opportunity for the initiative to get further feedback from professionals at the event, as well as promote its cause as much as possible. Throughout the two days, Flinders students (many of the student attending the conference were actually the initial ‘Plunge’ team and later its Committee) could be seen hunting down conference goers in the tea breaks. The sound of paper and pens was soon audible below the conversational chatter, as the conference attendees took to the initiative, aiding its expansion by offering advice and signing all six letters each. Collecting all of the letters (over 100) the ‘Plunge’ then posted them on behalf of everyone.

Creators of the 'Take the Plunge - Protect Australia's Heritage' Poster and their prize at the conference. Photo by John Naumann

This initiative was also encouraged through two additional aspects. A presentation was given about the group by the now President of the ‘Plunge’, Danielle Wilkinson. It detailed how the ‘Plunge’ was started, choices made, efforts for funding and recognition, and most importantly future plans for the initiative. In addition, a poster was made for presentation at the Conference, summarising the details contained on the Facebook page and in the lecture. Created by the author and Danielle Wilkinson, the poster was a great success, giving people an idea about what the initiative was about, without being overwhelming. The poster was awarded ‘Best Conference Poster’ at the closing ceremony. Due to the feedback received through the Conference, from those signing letters, viewing the poster and comments made regarding the presentation, ‘Take the Plunge – Protect Australia’s Heritage’ has improved and supercharged its efforts. There are many ideas in the works, scheduled for the remainder of this year and early next year. But, please don’t wait for the ‘Plunge’ to come to you…. Take the Plunge and download the letters today!

‘Take the Plunge-Protect Australia’s Heritage’ is sponsored by AIMA, Flinders University, Flinders University Archaeological Society, Society for Underwater Historical Research and the Flinders University Underwater Club.

Links:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TakethePlungeProtectAustraliasHeritage

Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Letter: http://docs.com/DSRZ.
Email Through: http://www.pm.gov.au/contact-your-pm.

Hon Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition. Letter: http://docs.com/DTWD.
Email Through: [email protected]

Hon Kevin Rudd, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Letter: http://docs.com/DSS5.
Email Through: [email protected]

Australian National Commission for UNESCO. Letter: http://docs.com/DSS6.
Email Through: [email protected]

Department of Veterans’ Affairs Letter: http://docs.com/DSS1.
Email Through: [email protected]

Senator Kim Carr, Minster for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. Letter:  http://docs.com/EDT8.
Email Through: [email protected]

Contact ‘The Plunge’ team through their email if you have any feedback or ideas: [email protected]

One track, Two tracks, Three tracks, Four? The Rail on the Port MacDonnell Jetty.

By Cassandra Morris, Master of Maritime Archaeology Candidate.

The 2011 Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Field Practicum was held at Port MacDonnell, to assist with the Honours Thesis of Maddy Fowler and the Masters Thesis of Purdina Guerra.

Team hard at work. In foreground Ania Legra, Dennis Wilson and Danielle Wilkinson. In Background Purdina Guerra, Zidian James and Wendy van Duivenvoorde. C.Morris 06/Jul/2011.

When told that we would be working on a jetty I, like most of the other students, thought ‘there’s always a jetty!’ and was not looking forward to the endless hours of measuring planks and fasteners. Worse, the night we arrived we were assigned teams and of course I was put on the Jetty team (half were assigned to the shipwreck, located just down the beach in the inter-tidal zone). While I did not envy the Shipwreck team’s 6am start the next morning, the Jetty team battled 30 knot winds, rain, hail and temperature of approx. 7°C or lower, and this was just the first day. However, it was on this first day, sheltering from the cold and rain in the Port MacDonnell Library, that the jetty really drew me in. There was a sense of mystery and several conundrums about the structure and its history, which became apparent from looking at historic photos. One of these problems was the rail tracks running the length of the jetty. Were they original, where did they originally lead to, what travelled on them, did they connect to anything else? There was no document to tell us exactly what happened to the rail over the years, so we went looking. Continue reading