By Cameron Mackay, Graduate Diploma in Maritime Archaeology
As stated previously, I am creating a list of Victoria’s top 20 undiscovered shipwrecks. This is the second instalment of my four-part blog series. In the previous instalment I addressed significance and the role it plays within archaeology and cultural heritage.
This time I shall focus on the main aims of the project and how significance values have been used in developing the list. The intention of the list is to direct the limited resources of both Heritage Victoria and interested community groups, such as the Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria ( MAAV), to research the sites that have potential to contribute most to the understanding of Victoria’s maritime heritage.
The MAAV is an active group of divers, historians and archaeologists who research, survey and promote maritime history and archaeology. It is hoped that producing a list of the State’s “Most Wanted” wrecks will provide a focus for community engagement with Victoria’s most significant shipwrecks.
Since my previous post I have modified my methodology. Instead of including the requirement that all sites in the list meet at least one significance criterion, I have increased the number of criteria that need to be met to a minimum of six. This has enabled me to quickly reduce the total number of sites being examined from 450 to 60 of the most potentially significant sites. This approach has also allowed me to continue to work within the project’s tight time frame.
From this first, fairly coarse, ranking system I have attempted to develop a more nuanced ranking within each defined significance criterion. The intention of the ranking is to filter the remaining 60 sites in the most objective way. My method has been to identify a number of subcategories under each of the main significance headings and assign each a value of between one and five, based on defined definitions addressing each value, thus providing a possible maximum score of 105 overall from the seven significance categories. The final score is multiplied by a factor of 0.9524 to reduce the score to a percentage (value out of 100). When it comes to examining the 60 sites this value of 100 will assist in providing an overall ranking and a degree of separation between wrecks to create a list of the top 20.
It is important to note that, while my method attempts to provide an objective measure of significance by assigning values to subcategories within each significance criterion, the value assigned to each will still ultimately depend on the person assessing the information available for each wreck.
It’s also important to note that, for a list of the top 20 most wanted wrecks, significance will not be the only factor that needs to be considered. Other factors will also need to be taken into account to generate the final “Most Wanted” list. Some of these are:
- Environment; and
- External Interest.
Mystery is a factor that should be considered, as there will be more public interest in a ship that may have been carrying gold or that mysteriously disappeared, or that we know little about. The environment is another factor: a vessel that is recorded as being buried under large amounts of sediments or existing in a high energy environment will be more difficult to record than one that sits in a low energy environment. Finally, external interest from other parties should be considered in case research is already being focused on certain wrecks, or an industry has formed in relation to the shipwreck that may increase its importance or the interest that is generated around it. An example is the Curlip shipwreck. The Curlip has had a cruise industry built in memory of the ship, in addition to a replica vessel, Curlip II, due to the importance it had in the local area.
If the site was discovered it could possibly generate interest and media, while also providing support for the Curlip II; this means that the importance of the site could be increased.