By: Chelsea Colwell-Pasch
My name is Chelsea Colwell-Pasch and I am a post-graduate student studying maritime archaeology at Flinders University. I am in Scotland this June and July to conduct research for my thesis as well as partake in Wessex Archaeology’s Project SAMPHIRE as a volunteer research assistant. The exciting opportunity to partake in Project SAMPHIRE came about when Dr Jonathan Benjamin, formerly of Wessex Archaeology and current Co-investigator for the Project, took a lecturer position at Flinders University this past January. Dr Benjamin then became my thesis advisor and we began discussing the numerous resources and connections available in Scotland for someone in my position of studying a Clyde-built ship that wrecked in Australia (see Figure 1). The initial idea of a research trip to Scotland for thesis research then grew into a professional development prospect and an opportunity to cultivate a research and industry relationship between Flinders University and Wessex Archaeology. The international cooperation allows an excellent opportunity for professional, academic, volunteer and student involvement. Plus, maritime archaeology is an international discipline with trans-boundary elements and the obvious aspects of transport and travel throughout time.
Figure 1. Chelsea Colwell-Pasch reading an original Lloyd’s Register of Shipping at the Glasgow University Archives in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo by: Chelsea Colwell-Pasch).
I am halfway through my final year of study and well into my chosen thesis topic which is a multiphasic vessel biography on the wreck of Leven Lass employing the BULSI (Build, Use, Loss, Survival, and Investigation) system. The brig Leven Lass was built in Dumbarton, Scotland, by Denny & Rankine at Denny’s Shipyard number two, in 1839 (The Clyde Built Ships 2014). A brig was a two-masted sailing ship with square rigging on both masts and was commonly used as couriers on coastal routes (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online 2014). Leven Lass had routes between Limerick and Glasgow and then between North America (Canada and West Indies) and Glasgow. It was then sold on 16 September 1852, by Paton and Grant, and sailed from Scotland to Melbourne, Australia on 1 October 1852 by Captain Sholto Gardener Jamieson (1818-1882), arriving in 1853 (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8; Lythgoe 2014; Wilson 2012). It spent the majority of its time in Southeast Australia as a post carrier between Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney and was considered “a remarkably fast sailer”, see Figure 2 (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8).
Figure 2. A Glasgow Herald newspaper article from 1852 calling for cargo applications for Leven Lass’ voyage to Melbourne (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8).
As a consequence of my research, I wanted to understand how they deemed Leven Lass to be ‘remarkably fast’. The way they calculated the speed of a vessel was with the ‘measured mile’, which was a nautical mile marked by two pairs of markers. A nautical mile is 6080 feet/1.852 km in length, as opposed to the land based statute mile which is 5280 feet/1.609 km in length (White 2003). A ship would work up to full speed on a steady course, the markers would be in transit (in line with each other) and the time noted then noted again when the next set of markers lined up (White 2003). Usually the average was taken between two runs to allow for wind and tide changes (White 2003). Near Dumbarton where Leven Lass was launched, there is a run that is actually two consecutive miles with three sets of markers (see Figure 3). Ships speed was given in knots, not knots per hour as a knot is one nautical mile per hour (White 2003). This is but one facet of the research I have conducted while in Scotland. My trip has taught me the importance of primary research and how much can be gained by travelling abroad for my research. This trip has been more than useful and the result is a much more in-depth study, without which my thesis would have been limited, or even superficial.
Figure 3. The three sets of measured mile markers on the Isle of Aaran to the SW of Dumbarton (RCAHMS 2014).
Leven Lass was chosen as my thesis topic after the 2014 Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Field School conducted at Phillip Island, Victoria this past January (see Figure 4). The field school was centred on a wreck that was determined to be Leven Lass by a previous Flinders masters student who worked on the wreck during the 2012 Maritime Archaeology Field School (Wilson 2012). While the focus of that thesis was more on maritime cultural landscapes and shipwreck identification, my thesis is looking at the vessel’s life cycle or career, from design inception to archaeological investigation, and its broader implications for shipwreck studies, Scottish maritime diaspora and nineteenth century post-colonial Australian seafaring.
Figure 4. A Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Student, records the Clyde-built Leven Lass during the 2014 field school on Phillip Island, Victoria. Another field school is scheduled for February 2015 (Photo by: J. Benjamin).
I have only been in Scotland a little over a week, though I have already visited the Glasgow University Archives, RCAHMS, Historic Scotland, the Mitchell Library, University of Edinburgh Library, and the Scottish Maritime Museum (Irvine) and met with various industry professionals. While these investigative avenues have been fruitful, any and all information that may be of value to my thesis research from the public would be appreciated and welcomed. Any information about Denny & Rankine shipbuilders would be especially valuable as there is little data available about them in the archives. I look forward to the rest of my Scotland adventure and to the valuable experiences to be gained with both Wessex Archaeology and with the communities around Scotland.
The SAMPHIRE team and I will be blogging and tweeting (as signal permits!) and we will keep progress reports as up-to-date as possible via the project blog. Please follow this year’s fieldwork (#SAMPHIRE) with Dr Jonathan Benjamin (@jon_benj), Wessex Archaeology (@wessexarch), and me, Chelsea Colwell-Pasch (@CColwellPasch).
The project blog link: http://blogs.wessexarch.co.uk/samphire/
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online 2014 “Brig”. Retrieved 3 June 2014 from: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/79477/brig.
Glasgow Herald 1852 “At Glasgow – For Melbourne, Port-Phillip”. 17 September: 8.
Lythgoe, Darrin 2014 Shetland Family History. Retrieved 23 May 2014 from: http://www.bayanne.info/Shetland/getperson.php?personID=I11228&tree=ID1.
RCAHMS 2014 Canmore: Isle of Aaran Measured Mile Markers. Retrieved 3 July 2014 from: http://canmoremapping.rcahms.gov.uk/index.php?action=do_advanced&list_z=0&sitename=&classterm1=MEASURED+MILE+MARKER+&sitediscipline=&idnumlink=&mapno=&site=&councilcode=&parish=®ioncode=&districtcode=&countycode=&ngr=&radiusm=0&collectionname=&bibliosurname=&biblioinits=&bibliotitle=&bibliodate=&bibliojournal=&submit=search.
The Clyde Built Ships 2014 Leven Lass. Electronic document. Retrieved 23 May 2014 from: http://www.clydeships.co.uk/view.php?ref=14432.
Wilson, Dennis D. 2012 The Investigation of Unidentified Wreck 784, Phillip Island, Victoria: Applying Cultural Landscape Theory and Hierarchy of Time to the Assessment of Shipwreck Significance. Unpublished Masters thesis, DEPT Flinders University, Adelaide.
White, Tony 2003 Polperro Cornish gem: Nautical Measured Mile Markers. Retrieved 3 July 2014 from: http://www.polperro.org/measuredmile.html.