Ashmore Reef Expedition 2015 – Part 8

Maggie II in action at Cumberland Entrance

Maggie II in action at Cumberland Entrance
Credit: Xanthe Rivett, Silentworld Foundation

After having watched the waves pile up on top of the surrounding reefs for the last five days it was a great relief to finally get out from behind Waier Island and make our way slowly over to the western end of the Cumberland Entrance to commence searching for the wreck of the Hydrabad.

Arriving on station in the late afternoon we carried out a quick recognizance of the area in order to compare the existing chart data with what we observed on the ground and what Captain Robertson said in his account of the wrecking in May 1845.

Chart extract showing Cumberland Entrance and Murray Islands

Chart extract showing Cumberland Entrance and Murray Islands (ANMM, 1866)

Although the main Cumberland Entrance through the Barrier is quite distinct – an 800 metre wide band of deep dark blue water threading its way between the light blue/green water which mark the edges of the northern and southern reef patches – we found a similar-looking deep water passage a few hundred metres to the south of the actual Entrance.

As some newspaper accounts at the time of the wrecking stated that Captain Robertson may have entered a false passage or entrance close to the real Cumberland Entrance, we decided to mag the more-sheltered southern passage first (although the wind had dropped, the waves on the reef on the southern-most side of the Cumberland Entrance were still breaking quite heavily due to the large swell), before switching our attention to the more open Cumberland Entrance to the north.

Anchoring up in the southern-most passage the mag team consisting of Fritz (Seasee Pty. Ltd.), Trevor (Silentworld Foundation) and I quickly got Maggie II ready for action loading laptops, batteries, differential GPS, magnetometer, tow cables, safety gear and additional fuel on board.

As Trevor navigated his way over to the southern side of the southern passage Frits and I set up the equipment, deployed the magnetometer and commenced testing the unit to make sure it was cycling correctly before we arrived at the reef. Then using a combination of seamanship, chart plotter, compass and depth sounder Trevor started running a series of tightly spaced search lanes, circumnavigating the southern-most reef, out from the shallow breaking edges of the reef towards the deeper water of the passage, whilst Frits and I kept on eye on the computer printouts.

Screen shot from GPS program showing search tracks (white) around southern reef

Screen shot from GPS program showing search tracks (white) around southern reef

Due to a variety of reasons including sea conditions – cycling rate of the mag, depth of water, tow depth of the mag unit and the size of the predicted magnetic anomaly – we could only tow the mag at around five knots. So, after completing five 2,500-metre long search lanes, it was now well after dark and time to head back to The Boss before recommencing the search tomorrow morning.

Find out more in part 9 of the Ashmore Reef Expedition series.

Kieran Hosty
Manager – Maritime Archaeology Program

Read more about the Australian National Maritime Museum’s maritime archaeology program.

This entry was posted in Ashmore Reef 2015, Maritime Archaeology and tagged , , , , , , by Kieran Hosty. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kieran Hosty

I started diving in Western Australia in 1976 and after a few years of mucking around on shipwrecks joined the Maritime Archaeological Association of Western Australia in order to try and make sense of what I saw on the seabed. My love of diving and maritime history made me pursue a graduate degree in history and anthropology from the Western Australian Institute of Technology followed a few years later by a post graduate diploma in maritime archaeology from Curtin University also in Western Australia. After 18 months as an archaeological field volunteer I took up a position with the Maritime Archaeology Unit at the Victoria Archaeological Survey. I was the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Officer in Victoria for six years before coming to the Australian National Maritime Museum in 1994 to take up the position of Curator of Maritime Archaeology and Ship Technology. At the Museum I was responsible for the Museum’s maritime archaeology program as well as curating the Museum’s collection relating to convicts, 19th century migrants and ship technology. My expertise in convict related material was further enhanced, when I took up a temporary position as Curator / Manager of Hyde Park Barracks Museum for eighteen months in 2004 followed by a further 18 month contract at the Barracks where I curated an exhibition on the history and archaeology of convict hulks and another on the World Heritage listing of Australian convict sites. In 2012 my role at the Museum shifted focus when I became the Manager – Maritime Archaeology Program – reflecting an increased emphasis on the importance of the maritime archaeology program at the Museum. I have worked on many maritime archaeological projects both in Australia and overseas including the survey and excavation of the Sydney Cove (1797), HMS Pandora (1791) and HMCS Mermaid (1829), the Coral Sea Shipwrecks Project (sponsored by the SiILENTWORLD FOUNDATION and the ARC) and the hunt for Cook’s Endeavour in the USA. I'm the author of the book Dunbar 1857: Disaster on our doorstep, published by the Museum along with two books on Australian convicts and 19th century migrants published by McMillan.

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