Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – 26 and 27 March

Tuesday 26 March

This morning the weather conditions appeared to be improving on yesterday’s so we sent off four teams to work on the Ferguson site.

Team One consisting of Frits and John dove on a series of magnetic anomalies off the south western side of Ferguson Reef, Gil and Greg in Team Two measured up an anchor at the northern part of the site, Peter and Jacqui in Team Three measured a ‘flat’ anchor and Grant and Andrew in Team Four measured an anchor in the surf zone. Whilst all this was going on Xanthe took photographs of the work in progress and I monitored the work from the surface whilst taking part in an open classroom discussion via telephone through the DART virtual excursion program of the NSW Department of Education.

As the teams returned from the wrecksite the whole area was struck by a series of rain squalls drenching everyone – well at least it saved us the job of washing the dive gear.

After lunch, sea conditions appeared to have quietened down once again and in almost perfect conditions we set off to dive on the site. Gil, Greg and I went to measure the length of a stud link anchor chain that was attached to a ‘picked in’ anchor. Peter and Jacqui jumped in to measure up the various iron knees, assisted by Andrew, John and Frits armed with metal detectors they commenced a non-disturbance metal detector survey of the site to find out ‘what lies beneath’. Continue reading

Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – Monday 25 March

Over the last few days the weather conditions on site have started to deteriorate as as the effects of a new monsoonal trough comes into play.

Photo of

Peter Illidge with charts.

With a substantial surf breaking over the southern and eastern edges of Ferguson Reef and with limited space in the boats we decided to send only single teams of snorkelers onto the reef-top searching for the magnetometer hits that John and Frits had detected on the previous day. Continue reading

Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition 21 – 24 March

Thursday 21 March

Before departing Lizard Island this morning the team took advantage of the early start by climbing Cook’s Look the iconic hill on Lizard Island. The same hill climbed by Lieutenant James Cook and some of the crew of HMB Endeavour in 1770 shortly after that vessel had run aground on a coral patch now known as Endeavour Reef, south of Lizard Island. Cook used this vantage spot to find his way out of the ‘labyrinth’ which had so nearly claimed his vessel.

Photo of

Expedition team at Cooks Look

After climbing Cook’s Look our expedition vessels departed Lizard Island bound for the Flinders Group, 50 or so miles north.

After a smooth passage the two vessels anchored in the channel between the cluster of islands that make up the Flinders Group just south and east of Princess Charlotte Bay. In March 1899 a cyclone destroyed a pearling fleet anchored in the Bay, with the loss of over 400 lives including at least 100 local Aboriginal people who were swept away and drowned as the result of a huge tidal surge associated with the cyclone. Continue reading

Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – the lead up

Our maritime archaeology team were set for a three week expedition to Ferguson Reef, off the coast of north Queensland to locate and survey shipwrecks Ferguson and Morning Star until the forces of nature threw some obstacles in their way – a couple of cyclones to be exact! Here, Kieran Hosty our maritime archaeology manager brings us up to speed with the expedition, the cyclones and the new plan.

We’ll be posting more of Kieran’s updates as the expedition continues, so keep an eye out.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Over the last week or so a number of factors have come into play which forced the Silentworld Foundation and the Australian National Maritime Museum to cancel or at best postpone the proposed Ferguson Reef Project.

Towards the end of last week a tropical low developed in the Gulf of Carpentaria and over last weekend formed into Severe Tropical Cyclone Sandra. Whilst TC Sandra has not caused any damage to the Queensland coast the formation of the cyclone in the Coral Sea has prevented one of the expedition vessel’s Nimrod Explorer from reaching Cairns from the Solomon Islands where it had been engaged in charter work. Cyclone Sandra has also whipped up the seas between Sydney and Cairns delaying the arrival of the second expedition vessel Silentworld II. Continue reading

A Cabinet of Titanic Curiosities

the bow of the Titanic wreck

Photos from Titanic wreck dive 1998, Image courtesy Andrew Rogers

Today I met Andrew Rogers.

The unsuspecting Sydneysider is one of few who have made the epic journey on board a submersible pod to the watery graveyard of the RMS Titanic. The chance competition win that took him to the infamous vessel 14 years ago unleashed an obsession with Titanic and it’s remarkable stories.

Submersible pod

Submersible pod, Image courtesy Andrew Rogers

Today he sits across from me grasping a black leather case from which he draws a number of items. Andrew is presenting our Cabinet of Curiosities Program on Sunday 15 April for the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking.  The objects he pulls out are not souvenirs stolen from the wreck, but small tokens that paint a story of the hours he spent exploring the vessel and the years of research into the lives Australian passengers on board Titanic that followed.

Anchor from Titanic

Images from Titanic wreck site dive 1998, Photo courtesy Andrew Rogers

Some of the objects he places on the table include a piece of Styrofoam crushed by the pressure on descent to the wreck, some newspapers from 1912, records from London detailing the Titanic feature film that Alfred Hitchcock never made. There are also spectacular photographs of the haunting skeletal wreckage (pictured here) and film footage from the dive.

hpcylinder Titanic

Photos from Titanic wreck dive 1998, Image courtesy Andrew Rogers

The Cabinet of Curiosities is a touch trolley program that invites museum visitors of all ages to engage with historic artefacts outside the confines of a glass display case.  Running every day during holidays and on Sundays during term, the Cabinet of Curiosities program invites discussion and hands on discovery of culture and social history through the fascinating and unusual relics that we use to tell these stories.  Usually drawn from the museum’s education collection, for the one day of 15 April we will be giving visitors access to Andrew’s personal collection and expertise. The cabinet presentation will take place in the galleries near Remembering Titanic 100 years at 11am and 2pm that day.