This past September, Kieran Hosty and I travelled to Newport, Rhode Island to assist an ongoing effort to archaeologically document eighteenth-century shipwreck sites in the city’s harbour associated with the American War of Independence (1775-1783). We were invited to Newport by Dr Kathy Abbass, Director of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP), an all-volunteer organisation that has been locating, documenting and investigating the maritime cultural heritage of Newport Harbor and its adjacent waterways since the late 1990s. Maritime archaeologists affiliated with the museum have been working with RIMAP since 1999, and a team comprising Kieran Hosty and the museum’s Head of Research, Dr Nigel Erskine, visited Newport as recently as September of last year to assist with the project.
Our interest in RIMAP’s research stems from the investigation of a fleet of British transports scuttled at Newport during the Battle of Rhode Island in August 1778— a story that has already been chronicled in a previous blog by Kieran and an article by Nigel in the scholarly journal The Great Circle. Among these vessels was the Lord Sandwich, a 368-ton bark that attained international recognition under its previous name, HMB Endeavour. Endeavour, of course, is best known for its voyage of exploration between 1768 and 1771 under the command of Lieutenant James Cook, during which it became the first European vessel to reach Australia’s east coast.
Pete Illidge and Renee Malliaros prove that site mapping and synchronised swimming are not mutually exclusive tasks. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.
One of the major goals of the Kenn Reefs expedition was to find Hope, the small cutter built from material salvaged from Bona Vista, and later lost during the rescue of the brig’s crew. According to historical accounts, two boats were sent from the rescuing vessel (the ship Asia) to Observatory Cay, where they recovered most of Bona Vista’s crew, the brig’s allocation of specie (gold and silver coin brought aboard Bona Vista for trading purposes), and brought them aboard Asia. A skeleton crew of thirteen and the personal belongings of all of the brig’s officers and men remained aboard Hope, as did unspecified salvaged goods valued at £1,000. However, as Asia got underway and took Hope under tow, tragedy struck:
The Narooma Bar on a very calm day with Montague Island in the distance. Image: Lee Graham / ANMM.
New South Wales hosts a wide variety of historic shipwreck sites. These range from large, fully exposed and intact hulls to smaller, largely disarticulated, dispersed, and buried structural components and artefacts. The environments in which these sites exist also differ significantly in terms of seabed composition, water depth and water clarity.
White Pointer shark jaw Gift from Ron and Valerie Taylor ANMM Collection
Three days ago, we lost one of the most highly regarded marine conservationists this country as ever produced – shark expert and underwater filmmaker Ron Taylor. Since the 1960s, Ron and his wife Valerie pioneered underwater photography and rigorously campaigned for marine conservation. Continue reading →
Ron and Valerie Taylor are pioneers of Australian marine conservation but began their underwater careers as competitive spearfishers in the 1950s and 1960s. Since 1969 they have devoted themselves to full-time shark research and underwater filming and photography. Recently they kindly donated much of their underwater equipment and memorabilia to the museum and some of it has just gone on display in our New Acquisitions Case, located on the ramp outside The Theatre.
Stephen and Peter installing some of the Taylor collection
Their spectacular footage has been used in such movies as Blue Water White Death (1970), Jaws (1974), The Blue Lagoon (1979) and The Island of Dr Moreau (1995) among many others. Their landmark 39-episode TV series Barrier Reef was followed by Taylor’s Inner Space, featuring the marine life of eastern Australia and the Pacific. The Taylors’ research into shark behaviour led to the development of stainless steel chain mail diving suits and electronic shark deterrent equipment and they were the first to film the Great Whites without a cage. The Taylors have been recognised worldwide for their passionate and vocal defence of the marine environment.
This small display will remain up until June 2012.