Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – 1-3 April

Monday 1 April 2013

April Fool’s Day – The wind has been steadily increasing overnight and some of the team – including Frits and Lee – have abandoned Hellraiser 2 to seek more comfortable berths on board the much larger SWII which does not bounce around so much in the increasing swell.

Plans for the day are much the same as yesterday, with the exception that the team will be joined by Steve and Sparra in Hellraiser 2 which – because we are operating more than eight miles away from the main vessel SWII – will act as a temporary rest stop for the teams working out of the smaller dive tenders.

Four teams on and in the water today – Frits and John ‘magging’ in Maggie; Gil, Greg, Lee and Freddy diving anomalies in Caribe; Xanthe, Jacqui, Andrew, Rick, Glen and I ‘magging’ and diving in the Hydro-sport; and Sparra, Steve and Grant on Hellraiser 2.

Kieran magging with Forbes Island in background.

Kieran magging with Forbes Island in background.

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Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – 30 and 31 March

Saturday 30 March 2013

Woke up this morning to a very empty anchorage at the back of Ferguson Reef – with Silentworld II (SWII) and the Hydro-sport dive tender having left for Portland Roads at 0330 this morning – leaving a much reduced crew (Xanthe, Andrew, Grant, Freddy and I) on board Hellraiser 2 to check out the last remaining anomalies and take the last measurements before cleaning up the site and sailing westward to meet the larger team at Eel Reef, and hopefully the wreck of the Indian-built opium clipper Morning Star wrecked three miles south west of Quoin Island in 1814.

With a much smaller team to get ready we got to the outer edge of Ferguson Reef and the wrecksite of the Ferguson in plenty of time for the high water slack.

Xanthe, Grant and Andrew from the Silentworld Foundation and I jumped in just to the seaward of the ‘picked in’ anchor and allowed the last few minutes of the floodtide to carry us in over the reef top and along the stud link anchor chain which runs back over the top of the reef for some 200 metres before ending amongst flat plate and staghorn coral.

Kieran underwater looking at anchor chain

Kieran inspecting the anchor chain.

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Ferguson Reef archaeology expedition – 28 and 29 March

Thursday 28 March

After a somewhat late night for the expedition team members and crew who had been waiting for the arrival of Hellraiser 2, the team members got together early the next morning to discuss the practicalities of working the ‘end of flood tide’ on the wrecksite so Xanthe could get a complete photomosaic of the site.

We decided to send a small team of divers, including Xanthe, Greg, Gil and Andrew, over to the site just before the ‘end of flood’ at 0700 so that Xanthe would have enough water depth to complete the photomosaic. Just in case, Freddy and Kieran would act as stand-by divers so that the in-water divers could be pulled out of the water if the ebb-tide came in earlier than expected.

Luckily conditions on site were perfect with the strong south-easterly (wind) holding up the ebbing tide long enough for the photomosaic to be completed without incident.

In the afternoon we planned for Frits and John to mag the northern part of the lagoon, have Andrew and Grant record the features of the carronades (cannon) on site, have Gil and Greg record the dimensions of all the various bits on the anchor chain, and Jacqui and I would record the knee and bilge pump dimensions. Unfortunately and unexpectedly the tides refused to cooperate – although for the last couple of days, the tides were behaving relatively normally with gaps of approximately 6 hours between High and Low tide – today the ebb tide was more prolonged, possible due to the effect of the New Moon. This meant the dive tender and Maggie (the shallow drafted magnetometer boat) were unable to get over the western edge of the reef and onto the wreck site.

After waiting for three hours – and noticing no discernible difference in the level of the water over the reef – the team called the dive and returned to Silentworld II.

Photo of Kieran and two of the crew on boat with seagul

We made a friend at sea!

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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

Meet Kieran Hosty, manager of maritime archaeology

Our education team recently caught up with Kieran Hosty, the museum’s manager of maritime archaeology, to find out more about his job and upcoming expedition to Ferguson Reef, off the coast Queensland.

Kieran wearing scuba gear sitting on boat at sea

Kieran Hosty, manager of maritime archaeology

What does your role at the museum involve?

Over the last 12 months my position at the museum has changed from that of a curator with a primary responsibility of managing a collection to that of full time manager of the museum’s expanding maritime archaeology program. When I was a curator I was responsible for immigration, ship technologies and marine archaeology. My work includes research, documentation, site survey and assessment of underwater cultural heritage, along with museum exhibition concept, design and installation. Continue reading