Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Congrats!

Before a change of subject – as the archaeological team share their experiences from Saumarez Reef in search of the Woodlark and Noumea shipwrecks – we’d like to reflect on the survey at Frederick Reef.

The search for shipwreck Royal Charlotte has been a great success, but we have to admit, we’ve held back on a few details (sorry!). We can now confirm that the team have found the anchor and canon from the Royal Charlotte!  Everyone at the museum is excited about the finds and sends their congratulations to the dive team.

Below are some images of the anchor and canon, part of the Royal Charlotte wreck of 1825.

Scuba diver with anchor from Royal Charlotte shipwreck

The anchor! Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Scuba divers measuring anchor

Measuring the anchor. Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Detail of canon from shipwreck Royal Charlotte

The canon. Where’s Wally? Spot the little fish in the photo.

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 6

Mon, 9 Jan 2012

I was up early today at 5.45 am.  Some people are starting to get up with the sun!

My team was assigned the task of doing a manta board survey from the coral cay, west as far as we could go; and then, from the reef break to the south. We were out from 8.30 am until midday.

Conducting a manta board survey at sea

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

During that time we found two pieces of timber, possibly from the shipwreck, in the deep water of the lagoon. West of the cay we found another pulley sheave, but without the bronze coak, and an unidentified assemblage of iron and timber. 

In the afternoon we headed out to get an overall picture of the finds that have been discovered over the last four days.

Timber from shipwreck at sea floor

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Here are a few photos of the day…

Paul Hundley  (Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

Snorkel team on inflatable boat

First snorkel team heading out for the morning. Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Free diver under water

Free diving on an anomaly while on the manta board survey. Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Underwater reflection of coral reef

The water was so clear and reflects the sea bottom like a mirror. Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 5

Sunday, 8 Jan 2012

After a 6 am breakfast, we started preparing the magnetometer for an early start to take advantage of the morning high tide.  We left for the inside of the reef and set up the equipment in the Caribe, the larger inflatable boat.  After about a half hour a rogue wave broke over the side of the boat and splashed the power inverter and computer.  The inverter failed immediately.  We dried the equipment, switched the inverter to our spare, and continued using the magnetometer.  Half an hour later the same thing happened again.  We cancelled the survey and headed back to Kanimbla.

I flushed the inverters with fresh water to remove the corrosive salts from the sea water.  Then we let them dry in the sun.  As a final measure we flushed the circuit board with rubbing alcohol to remove any remaining dampness.  I left them while the crew had lunch and when I hooked them up again, one came back to life, but the other was well and truly fried! 

In the afternoon, our team started testing the back-up magnetometer we shipped out from Western Australia.  It kept blowing fuses and we found there was a wiring fault in the power box.  The team decided to start a manta board survey along the north side of the coral cay at about 3 pm.  We were in the water for about an hour and a half before returning to Kanimbla.

We downloaded the GPS tracks of our survey and annotated our field notes, finally finishing off at 6 pm. Here are a few photos of what the other teams got up to during the day….

Lee Graham with a lead scupper that would have drained water off the deck

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Lee Graham and his team found a lead scupper that would have drained water off the deck.

A broken blade stem glass

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

A broken blade stem glass.  Very high quality, possibly lead crystal. The fact that it is still clear indicates that it hasn’t been exposed to the coral and surf for very long.

Sunset over Frederick Reef

Sunset over Frederick Reef. Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Good Night…..
Paul Hundley  (Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 4

Saturday, 7 Jan 2012

After breakfast we started preparing the magnetometer for its check-out, an important piece of equipment that surveys magnetic fields to help us detect archaeological artefacts. With the equipment set up in the Caribe, the larger inflatable boat, we left for the inside of the reef.  But after about an hour we lost power to the computer operating the mag!  We went back to the Kanimbla to trouble-shoot the power inverter.   

After lunch and our afternoon briefing we prepared for our next dive. Our team was assigned to do a drift snorkel dive from inside the reef break north to the lagoon.  We loaded our snorkel gear into one of the inflatables and headed for the reef.  Only half an hour into our dive, Jacqui Mullen spotted a pintle, rudder fitting. 

A pintle one of the rudder fittings found on the reef

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

About 10 metres away Maddie spotted a matching gudgeon.  A real find as they are indicative of the size of the vessel they were attached to. We continued our dive and about 15 metres further on I found a pulley sheave with its bronze coak still in place.

Left photo of gudeon Right photo of pulley on sea floor

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

At the end of the dive, we were in deeper water and spotted an unidentifiable conglomeration of iron and timber.  That will be something to look more closely at later.  We got into the boat and headed back to Kanimbla.  We were met with great excitement over our finds.  We took some of the other divers back out to show them the material and finally got back to Kanimbla at 4.30 pm. 

We downloaded the GPS tracks of our dives and the locations of the finds.  It has been another very big day with significant finds in a number of areas.  Stay tuned…. This is turning out to be a fast-paced project with new discoveries every day. 

Below are a few more photos of what else has been happening.

Lee Graham finding another piece of timber from the shipwreck

Lee Graham found another piece of timber possibly from the shipwreck. Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Kanimbula boat on glass calm water at Frederick Reef

Glass calm water at Frederick Reef. Photographer: Xanthe Rivett


Paul Hundley  (Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 3

Friday, 6 Jan 2012


We arrived at Frederick Reef about 3 am… announced by the rattling of the anchor chain through the boat.  Most people were up about 6 am to catch their first glimpse of the reef and sand cay. After breakfast at 7 am we started preparing for check-out dives. Before the dives Kieran gave a general historical briefing and a dive safety briefing about the diving procedures we will be using.  The first dives were done between 11.30 am and 1.30 pm in teams of three or four.  We had a late lunch and went straight back for a second check-out as a boat dive.  Final divers were up at 4.30 pm.  One of the teams located a timber that appears to be from the wreck!

Very close by was an iron staple knee.  A reinforcing structure that may have supported two deck beams.

Photo of a piece of timber on sea floor and iron knee staple

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

After completing dive logs, washing gear and writing up notes we finally finished off at 6 pm.  A 12-hour day and the crew were a bit weary!  Dinner was served at 7.30 pm, followed by a debrief of the day’s activities.  Xanthe Rivett, our expedition photographer, put on a slideshow of the day’s photos.  Here are just a few…

Kanimbla boat at sea

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Beautiful beach

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Detail of sea creature on sand

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

Cheers Paul Hundley
(Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 2

Most of the crew were up by 7 am.  The seas were up and the Kanimbla was rolling and pitching.  Some of the crew chose to pass on breakfast and stay in their bunks.

After breakfast a group of us set up the safety bags containing a strobe light, emergency whistle and safety sausage or tall position marker that can be seen at quite a distance.  We are very remote and very conscious of safety procedures.

A bit later on we pulled out copies of our historical records and scoured over them for additional clues to where we might find the Royal Charlotte.  We took a break at lunchtime and afterward downloaded our report from the 2010 reconnaissance with the chart of mag hits, their strength and location.   The last task for the day was to make up our decent lines and marker buoys.  The team from Flinders took charge of this under the capable teaching of Lee Graham from ANMM.

 Lee Graham from ANMM teaching the team from Flinders on the make up our decent lines and marker buoys.

We wrapped up work for the day about 6 pm and had dinner at 7 pm in the lee of Saumarez Reef.  This gave us a bit of protection and cut down the rolling of the boat a bit.  Everyone was very tired from fighting the seas today and there wasn’t anyone up past 9 pm.

Early tomorrow morning we will arrive and anchor up at Frederick Reef.

Paul Hundley

Hopefully in the next instalment I will be able to introduce the crew and post photos of most of us.  Stay tuned!

Cheers Paul Hundley  (Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 1 Part 2

Back again… It’s actually the morning of Day 2, but I thought I’d catch you up with what went on after leaving Brisbane airport.  There were other crew members on our flight- John Jackie and Jenn Mullen and Gordon.  We were all working together on the Mermaid project back in 2009.  Our blog from that expedition is still archived on our website.

We arrived in Gladstone at about 1.30 pm.  A bit delayed, but at least all of our equipment made it with us!

We took a taxi to the marina and met the crew of the Kanimbla.  Carl and Jesse had picked up all the gear we had shipped up from Sydney the week before and it was already on the boat.  Kieran and I did a quick check and found that one parcel had been left behind.  And a pretty important one at that… the cable that attaches the magnetometer tow fish to the computer!  The magnetometer, or mag, is a piece of electronic survey equipment.  Basically it is a very sensitive metal detector, but if you can’t connect the sensor to the computer it’s not going to work.

We got Carl to take us to the TNT depot where we spotted it right away.  The depot thought it was for Telstra because it was a big blue cable!  With that problem solved we picked up a few other supplies that we knew we might need and headed back to the marina.  Kieran had a couple of interviews scheduled for 3 pm.

We got back spot on 3 pm and one film crew was just unpacking and another reporter and photographer were already on board Kanimbla.  That took about an hour to provide the story, photos and film.  There should be a news piece on Channel 7 evening news on Thursday.  But we won’t be able to get this blog out until after that.  Sorry…

Kieran and I took advantage in the break in activity to unpack our personal gear and settle into a four bunk berth.  It has enough room to store some of the camera and video equipment.  After that we got stuck into unpacking and reorganising some of the 19 assorted bins and boxes of dive gear and survey equipment.

The doctor for the project arrived at about 5.30 pm.  Frederick Reef is so remote that we felt it was a good idea to have a diving doctor on board the Kanimbla.  At 6 pm the rest of the ANMM staff arrived along with the staff and students from Flinders Uni.  Everyone had arrived on our boat.

The last person was Xanthe Rivett our project photographer and videographer.  Everyone stopped work and took some time to get to know each other.

At 8.30 pm we had our safety briefing from the captain of Kanimbla, as required of all charter boats in preparation for departure.  We had dinner at 9 pm and pulled away from the wharf at 10 pm. We’re on our way to Frederick Reef!!  I’ll let you know how we stay busy for the next 30 hours…

Cheers Paul Hundley  (Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 1

Hey everyone.  If you’ve found this you might have heard an interview with Kieran Hosty our team leader.  Or maybe saw an article in the newspaper.  Welcome to our project.  This is actually the second trip to Frederick Reef for the ANMM.  Nigel Erskine and I did a reconnaissance trip in October 2010 with Silentworld Foundation.  Here are a couple of images from that trip.

Images from the scouting trip in 2010. Paul and Nigel

Paul and Nigel at work. Looking for remains.

We found a number of areas that had ship material scattered on the reef.  This project will go back to those areas for a closer look, as well as do a magnetometer survey around the entire southern reef system.

We are looking for the remains of the Royal Charlotte, convict ship that wrecked in 1825.  Here is an image of the Borrowdale, another convict transport. It is a bit smaller and older than the Royal Charlotte, but it will give an idea of what it looked like.  You can read a brief history here.

We are currently sitting in Brisbane airport waiting for our flight to Gladstone where we are meeting the rest of the team and the two boats.  We will be on the Kanimbla.  The other part of the team will be on Silentworld II, which is part of the Silentworld Foundation.

I know this is short, but I wanted to get something out to you quickly….  and we need to board our flight now!

We will write again tonight once we know when we will be leaving port. Stay tuned!  We will be sending posts back regularly…. with images and video clips too!!

Cheers Paul Hundley  (Sr. Curator and archaeologist)

Frederick Reef expedition

In January, the Australian National Maritime Museum will lead an underwater archaeology expedition to the Coral Sea to search for the wreck of the ship Royal Charlotte, lost in 1825.

The dive team will depart Gladstone on 5 January 2012 to explore the waters around Frederick Reef and other areas, where they will remain at sea for two weeks.

The expedition team will be sending through regular updates via this blog, so keep tuned throughout January!

Scuba diver searching the ocean floor during a reconnaissance trip to Frederick Reef October 2009

Reconnaissance trip to Frederick Reef October 2009. Copyright: Xanthe Rivett

The team includes three museum maritime archaeologists, a fourth museum diver and more than 20 volunteer divers and other support personnel in two research vessels. Two archaeology students from Flinders University in South Australia will also participate in the expedition.

This is the same dive team that located and identified the government schooner Mermaid wrecked in 1829, 20km south of Cairns in January 2009.

Kieran Hosty, the expedition leader, ANMM curator and maritime archaeologist said:

“Locating the remains of the Royal Charlotte will provide us with interesting historical detail and information on convict and troop transportation in the 19th century. We’re hoping to find remains of the hull and ballast, which would also reveal useful information about aspects of Indian shipbuilding at that time.”