Ashmore Reef Expedition 2015 – Part Three

The first task today was to buoy the major features of the site including the two anchor clusters, the iron carronades and the various grouping of iron knees and riders and then plot the positions of these features onto a site plan with the help of a GPS.
Once that task was completed additional teams of divers — led by archaeologists Paul Hundley (Silentworld Foundation) and Peter Illich (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) — entered the water to assess, measure and then record the features. At the same time the photographic team — led by Xanthe Rivett (Silentworld Foundation) and assisted by Grant Luckman (Department of the Environment) recorded the artefact assessment and survey work and supplemented the survey teams records by taking photographic close ups of various distinctive features, such as the anchor chain, anchor rings, carronade muzzles, touch holes and slides.

Paul Hundley and Jacqui Mullen from the Silentworld Foundation recording the large Pering anchors

Paul Hundley and Jacqui Mullen from the Silentworld Foundation recording the large Pering anchors. Photo courtesy Xanthe Rivett, Silentworld Foundation.

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Ashmore Reef Expedition 2015 – Part Two

Photograph of Ashmore REef

Ashmore Reef – perfect diving conditions, Photo courtesy Xanthe Rivett, Silentworld Foundation.

After an 18-hour trip, the expedition team arrived at the northern edge of Ashmore Reef on board the expedition vessel The Boss. Towed behind The Boss were one of two rigid hull inflatable boats (RIBs) and the Silentworld Foundation’s small survey catamaran Maggie II – also known as The Caravan of Courage because of its unique deck cabin that looks remarkably like a small 1970s caravan.

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Goat Island – Conservation Kayaking

‘Conservation kayaking’, by former conservator Julie O’Connor. From Signals 103 (June-August 2013).

Centrally located in Sydney Harbour, Goat Island is managed by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). As part of the recent Sydney Harbour National Parks Management Plan, NPWS plans to encourage greater use of the island.

NPWS officers are working with volunteer organisations to preserve the botanical and biological environment surrounding the island’s buildings. During August, September and October 2012, I made three visits to historic Goat Island with a group of conservation kayakers, which offered an insight into the island’s maritime history.

Preparing for the trip.

Preparing for the trip.

On each visit to the island, we launched our kayaks from Birchgrove Park, and then circumnavigated the island from east to west. Approaching from the south-east, we passed an Aboriginal shell midden, a pile of discarded shells on the shore. This is the last dietary remnant of the Sydney Aboriginal people who used Goat Island before its colonial occupation from the 1820s. It later became a source of lime for mortar during the construction of buildings on the island.

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Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – 24 November

After motoring overnight the Silentworld Foundation’s Research Vessel Silentworld II arrived offshore from Moulter Cay (Entrance Cay) some four nautical miles south of the wreck site of HMS Pandora.

In 1790 the three masted, wooden, 24 gun, Porcupine class frigate HMS Pandora sailed from England to Tahiti in the South Pacific in pursuit of HMAV Bounty and its infamous mutineers led by Fletcher Christian. After capturing some of the mutineers, the Pandora searched the Pacific, visiting the Solomon, Rotuma, Union, Samoa, Palmerston, Society and Cook Islands before returning to England, via the Torres Strait when it was wrecked in an entrance through the Great Barrier Reef that beats its name.

The monument to Pandora. PHOTO: Peter Illidge, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The monument to Pandora. PHOTO: Peter Illidge, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The survivors sailed in open boats from the Barrier Reef to Java and eventually returned to England, where the surviving mutineers were brought to trial. The wreck site was re-discovered by divers – with the assistance of the Royal Australian Air Force – in 1977.

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Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – 18/19 November

Monday 18 November 2013

On Monday afternoon expedition team members from the Silentworld Foundation, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the Museum flew into Lizard Island 80 nautical miles north of Cairns to continue their search for the wreck of the Indian-built opium trader Morning Star (1814) and the Javanese-built merchant vessel Frederick (1818).

After carrying out the usual pre-trip safety checks (diving and fitness) the team departed Lizard Island on Monday evening heading for Wreck Bay off Stanley Island in the Flinders Group.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

After motoring overnight on board the expedition vessel Silentworld 2 the team arrived off Wreck Bay to be greeted by perfect diving conditions – with no wind and almost pancake flat seas.

In no time at all – with the dive tenders fuelled, the dive, survey and safety equipment checked and loaded and the divers briefed – the team was off to search and hopefully locate the remains of the Frederick which was driven onto a coral reef at the head of Wreck Bay in 1818.

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Wreck Reef Expedition: shipwrecks, reefs and a shadowy early mariner

Drawing of Porpoise Cay after Porpoise and Cato are wrecked on Wrecks Reef in 1803. Marooned sailors erect tents on the tiny island and fly their flag upside down to indicate distress. Porpoise is grounded on the reef (far left).

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. Continue reading

Monday 12 January off Endeavour Reef

As the expedition winds down for 2009 the weather has been winding up – the wind and the seas have been gradually increasing over the last three days. Whilst its still possible to dive on Endeavour Reef an expected wind shift to the south and east will making diving on the HMB Endeavour stranding site very difficult.

The first dive teams were in the water quite early this morning trying to finish off the Endeavour Reef research prior to the wind shift.

Nigel had tracked down archival information on the early salvage work on the site. This information indicated that the early salvor’s had recovered most of the stone ballast from an area 26 meters at 080 degrees from the tripod. The records also indicated that most of the iron kentledge was recovered from an area 28 meters at 105 degrees from the tripod.

The stone ballast team consisting of Peter, Nigel, Lee and Warren and the kentledge ballast team, consisting of Xanthe, Ed, Grant and myself located the railway iron tripod and ran out tapes on the designated bearings. Luckily for us the salvor’s information proved accurate and the two teams quickly located the areas.

Visual surveys of the two areas indicated that the reef areas still showed signs of the explosives with a large depression 10 meters in diameter and 1 meter deep marking the area where the kentledge had been recovered. This depression, devoid of any coral, was stripped back to bare coral rock. A metal detector survey of this area produced no magnetic anomalies however Ed Slaughter did locate a significant anomaly about 14 meters away from the tripod.

The stone ballast team did not see evidence of blasting but did not locate several other ballast stones and more lead sheathing.

Following this dive the decision was taken to close down the work on the Endeavour Reef and prepare to head down the coast in Spoilsport to Flora Reef and the team from Nimrod / Silentworld.

Nigel Erskine, ANMM, inspecting possible HMB Endeavour ballast on Endeavour Reef

Nigel Erskine, ANMM, inspecting possible HMB Endeavour ballast on Endeavour

Its the Mermaid

Dr. Nigel Erskine , ANMM, surveying a cluster of anchor chain on site.

Dr. Nigel Erskine , ANMM, surveying a cluster of anchor chain on site.

I hope you have been following Alice and Megan’s blogs on the 2009 Mermaid Project over the last six days. Over the last couple of days the dive team have made a number of significant discoveries on Flora Reef. Two days ago during a magnetometer survey on the southern side of the reef the team picked up a small but impressive magnetometer signal about 150 meters offshore from what was then Flora Reef Unidentified shipwreck No 2. A team of divers were sent in and after only a short search located a 5 foot long, wrought iron kedge anchor sitting on top of a coral bommie in 7 meters of water. We know from historical accounts of the wreck that the crew of the Mermaid dropped a small kedge anchor about half a cable length from the stern of the vessel in an attempt to kedge (pull) the Mermaid off the reef. Their attempt failed and the kedge anchor and its coirfibre cable were abandoned.

Lee Graham from the Museum's Fleet section next to the Mermaid's anchor.

Lee Graham from the Museum’s Fleet section next to the Mermaid’s anchor.

Paul Hundley, ANMM surveying in the schooner's pump.

Paul Hundley, ANMM surveying in the schooner’s pump.

In itself the discovery of the anchor did not proove that that the wrecksite was HMCS Mermaid and the team continued to survey the site looking for additional information. Yesterday a metal detector survey uncovered a series of anomlies scattered amongst coral rubble on the southern side of the site. These anomlies have now been identified as being casement or cannister shot (packets of ball bearings contained within a small canvas bag of small wooden cannister) the team have also found fragments of copper sheathing, sheathing nails, ship’s fastenings, lead patches and several large magnetic anomalies on the wrecksite. This information along with the position of the wreck and the size of its remains has meant that we are now quite positive that the site is that of HMCS Mermaid wrecked off the Frankland Islands in 1829.

Archaeologists, scientific divers and volunteers divers and snorkellers are continuing their investigation of the site hoping to reveal more information about this fascinating vessel.