A ringing success: Kenn Reefs expedition, days 7 and 8

Lee Graham and his trusty tow-board. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

Lee Graham and his trusty tow-board. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

While the dive team was busy documenting sites KR10 and KR11 on the morning and afternoon of 14 January, the magnetometer team took advantage of the calm weather and sea conditions to run a survey along the outside of the entire Kenn Reefs system. The first area surveyed was along the outside fringe of the ‘foot and ankle’, with specific emphasis placed on detecting offshore components of known shipwreck sites (such as KR1, KR2 and KR4). Because sea conditions were calm, the team also ‘deployed’ Lee on a tow-board behind the magnetometer.

The tow-board (also known as a ‘Manta-board’) is a flat, hydrodynamic-shaped board with handles that is connected to a towing vessel with a length of line. The person using the tow-board grips the handles, is pulled through the water at low speed, and can visually search the seabed for shipwreck material. Most tow-boards are designed so that their users can turn, dive and ascend through the water column at will, simply by changing its orientation with the handles. Lee was positioned 10 metres behind the magnetometer in the hope he might be able to visually spot and identify any anomalies it detected.

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Finding ‘Hope’ with a magnetometer: Kenn Reefs expedition, days 6 and 7

Pete Illidge and Renee Malliaros prove that site mapping and synchronised swimming are not mutually exclusive tasks. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

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:

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Kenn Reefs expedition, day four (continued) and day five

Silentworld Foundation CEO and project team leader John Mullen uses a metal detector to search for artefacts in shallows off Observatory Cay, while Jacqui Mullen (background) documents a find. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

Silentworld Foundation CEO and project team leader John Mullen uses a metal detector to search for artefacts in shallows off Observatory Cay, while Jacqui Mullen (background) documents a find. Image: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation.

While the magnetometer crew conducted its initial search west of Observatory Cay, a second team embarked upon a metal detector survey of the cay itself and searched for evidence of survivor camps associated with the wrecked vessels Bona Vista and Jenny Lind.

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Fish in Australian art opens tomorrow

Tomorrow, our new exhibition Fish in Australian art opens to the public and runs until 1 October. As a keen lover of visual arts, I’m particulary excited about this exhibition. I can’t wait to spend some time exploring the show! The exhibition features over 100 works of art and design, including pieces by celebrated artists such as William Buelow Gould, Conrad Martens, Rupert Bunny, Margaret Olley, William Dobell, Arthur Boyd, Yvonne Koolmatrie, John Olsen, John Brack, Michael Leunig, Craig Walsh and many more.

Over the past week I dropped by the exhibition space to see how the installtion was going. Here are a few snaps, with more available for viewing on Flickr.

Preparator installing fish sculpture

Above: Trevally dance machine, 1993, Ken Thaiday Sr, born c 1950.

Four small fish sculptures

Preparator installing small fish sculptures into cabinet

Neon Fish, 2010, Deborah Halpern. Reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Above: Neon Fish, 2010, Deborah Halpern. Reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey – Day 11

Sat, 14 Jan 2012
Saumarez Reef

The wind has moderated a bit this morning and the swell is calming down too… at least on the inside of the reef.  It is still too high to get out on the reef face.

We are on the search for the Woodlark, a Sydney merchant ship that struck on the shallow reef on the eastern side of Saumarez Reef in 1829. As it wrecked, it went up and over the reef into a shallow basin on the reef top.  We are going to approach the site from the inside and see if we can get close enough to search the basin while staying away for the pounding surf on the outside of the reef.

The last time anyone had been on the site was back in 1991.  At the time, Ron Coleman an archaeologist with the Queensland Museum was only able to spend about three hours doing a quick survey.  At least we have a GPS location from that visit which will make our work a lot easier.

Time to find the Woodlark!  We loaded the boats mid-morning.  We have two manta board teams and a snorkel team.  One of the manta board teams will be working from the basin out to the east as far as a prominent rock outcrop.  Supposedly nine survivors from the Woodlark scrambled onto this rock and stayed on it for three days. 

View of reef below the surface of the water

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

The other manta board team will work from the rock further east, out towards the surf break.  The snorkel team is going to work in and around the basin.

At the mid-day debrief the teams reported that we had relocated a number of features mapped by the Coleman team in 1991, including a pair of iron knees and the anchor chain running into the basin. We may have also located some new iron strapping between the rock and the basin.  And the snorkel team located some new anchor chain in the basin.  A small fragment of copper sheathing was the only small artefact to be seen, found close to the anchor chain in the basin.

Anchor chain

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

After lunch three scuba teams went back out on the reef.  Two teams divided the basin in half along the east/west axis.  One team worked in the southern half and the other in the northern half of the basin. The two teams conducted a metal detector survey to locate iron objects below the surface and buried in the coral sand sediment.  The third team which included our photographer, roved over the entire site taking photographs and conducting a visual survey of the area for material visible on the reef top.

There was a strong current running from the east to the west, partially caused by the rising tide, but also pushed along by the still strong easterly winds. Hopefully the weather will moderate further tomorrow.  With good wind and waves we should be able to wrap this site up in one more day. 

Tomorrow we are also expecting our re-supply vessel to arrive in the afternoon.

Sting ray on reef

Photographer: Xanthe Rivett

 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

 Cheers

Paul Hundley  (Sr. Curator and archaeologist)