Wrecks, reefs and a seabed search to identify a mysterious early explorer in Australian waters will be the main topics of conversation during the museum’s latest voyage.
On 30 November 2009 our maritime archaeology team sets out on a two week expedition to explore Wreck Reefs in the Coral Sea, one of the reef systems being considered for a proposed Coral Sea Marine Park 230nm off the Queensland coast.
View Wreck Reefs in a larger map
The team will search for ships wrecked during the 1800s and explore the surrounds of nearby Bird Islet, which was mined for guano (bird excrement) and used as a whaling station in the second half of the eighteenth century.
During this voyage, the museum is collaborating with Silentworld Foundation, which is part of Australian Shipping company Silentworld. The foundation is a non-profit organisation established to further Australian maritime archaeology and research plus improve Australia’s knowledge of its early maritime history.
Explorer Matthew Flinders named the reefs in 1803 when the vessel he was traveling in, HMS Porpoise, was wrecked there with another vessel, Cato. While there, Flinders found evidence of an earlier wreck – one he estimated to be of a 400 ton ship. Along with other wrecks in the area, part of the museum’s expedition is to search for evidence of this pre-1803 wreck.
The second part of the expedition will focus on the ocean surrounding Bird Islet. This island has a rich history and its surrounding ocean is largely undisturbed by divers and marine archaeologists.
Since little is known about the Coral Sea reefs, this expedition has the potential to answer many exciting questions regarding Australia’s maritime history and help identify various shipwreck locations.
The museum plans to publicize the expedition’s results through this weblog, video streaming field work, film, public lectures and workshops. The project will also connect archaeologists, marine biologists, historians, filmmakers, curators and students with historical records, museum collections and Coral Sea archaeological sites.
Slientworld will operate the 22 metre live-aboard dive research vessel Nimrod Explorer, which will be the expedition’s main boat (link to specs). The expedition’s second boat Silentworld 11 will provide advanced communication equipment for the expedition’s web updates, internet access and weather updates. Depending on the weather, a third boat Pirate may also be available to complete a resupply run to the mainland midway through the project.
Check this blog over the next few weeks for historical highlights and crew expedition updates.
– Contributed by Kieran Hosty, Curator Technology, Archaeology