Old Wrecks, ‘Black Reefs’

Invasive corallimorphs have colonised a modern shipwreck at Palmyra Atoll in the Line Islands. The corallimorphs have benefitted from a phase shift in the reef’s ecosystem brought on by the shipwreck’s iron components leaching into the water column. Image: Susan White/US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Invasive corallimorphs have colonised a modern shipwreck at Palmyra Atoll in the Line Islands. The corallimorphs have benefitted from a phase shift in the reef’s ecosystem brought on by the shipwreck’s iron components leaching into the water column. Image: Susan White/US Fish and Wildlife Service.

This past January, a collaborative research team comprising maritime archaeologists from the Silentworld Foundation and the museum conducted a shipwreck survey at Kenn Reefs in Australia’s Coral Sea Territory. The team relocated a number of historic shipwrecks documented by the Queensland Museum in the 1980s, as well as four new wreck sites. The Kenn Reefs complex is a seamount system located within the ‘Outer Route’, a seaway used by nineteenth-century mariners in an effort to avoid the Great Barrier Reef when travelling to and from Australia’s east coast. The discovery of multiple shipwreck sites of nineteenth-century vintage at Kenn Reefs demonstrates the hazards faced by mariners as they transited through waters that were insufficiently charted. Field investigations included reef-top inspections, metal detector and magnetometer surveys, and diver-based ground-truthing of observed features and buried anomalies.

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Maritime landscapes

If you have a minute, take a look at this shot with me. It’s a maritime scene – and not a cross between a really bad accident on the Persian rug or a promising entry for the Sulman Prize! It’s been cropped a bit and I’ve fiddled the contrast and colours to give it more impact, but the rest is what the camera and I saw.

Photo taken from plane shows red dessert coastline of Western Australia

5 pm 13 July. Photographer D Payne

This was taken in mid July, 35000 feet up, window seat 41K in a Boeing 777, three hours or so from Singapore, on the way home from holidays, with pleasant memories of European landscapes recorded in 300 or so snaps of idyllic scenery, all as promised in the travel brochures. But no one mentioned this scene, and it seems to top them all. What’s going on down there?

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