National Archaeology Week:
Meet the Archaeologists Night
23 May 2014
Rick Bullers – Geelong Resource Manager/Senior Herita...
Research Design and Objectives
Study limited to:
 Vessels:
◦ built in Australia before 1901;
◦ constructed of wood; and
◦ principally sail-driven.
 Ves...
4
Australian Ships/Shipwrecks Database
 Quality of Construction (were
they poorly-built or cheaply
built, or of a similar standard
to British-built vessels?).
◦...
 What were the environmental,
economic and social factors
that influenced shipbuilding in
colonial Australia?
◦ Vegetatio...
Australian Colonial Shipbuilding
Timber Analysis
 More than 500 recognised Eucalypt
species/subspecies
 Changes to speci...
 What technological
adaptations are
evident in
Australian-built
colonial shipping?
8
Research Questions (3)
Deckhook, Apr...
Australian Colonial Shipbuilding
Adaptations to Australian Conditions – Flat Bottoms/Centreboards
9
Cross section, at forw...
Australian Colonial Shipbuilding
Comparison of Construction Techniques – Iron Knees
10
Site Plan: Ketch Mary Ellis, Sleafo...
Australian Colonial Shipbuilding
Adaptations to Australian Conditions – Flat Bottoms/Centreboards
11
Recording the ketch A...
Australian Colonial Shipbuilding
Adaptations to Australian Conditions – Flat Bottoms/Centreboards
12
Centreboard casing, k...
Survey and Excavation: Some Case Studies
14
Ketch Alert (1872-1959), Jervois Basin Ships Graveyard
Baseline offset survey in
2005 (left), test
excavation (right) a...
15
Schooner Zephyr (1851-1852), Marion Bay, Tas
Baseline offset survey in
2005 (above left) and
final site plan (above)
(B...
16
Ketch/SS Victoria (1888-1918+), Ida Bay, Tas
Remains still at Ida Bay
jetty in 2005 (top &left)
and at high tide (above...
17
Ketch Three Sisters (1874-1899), Lipson Cove, Eyre Peninsula
Excerpt from field notes
Port Lincoln Times
article, May 1...
18
Ketch Mary Ellis (1897-1907), Sleaford Bay, Eyre Peninsula
Recording during test excavation
for author’s Masters thesis...
19
Intact Vessel Recording
Ketch May Queen (b.1867), Constitution
Dock, Hobart, 2004
Schooner Alma Doepel (b.1903), Melbou...
 Preliminary results dispute claims of poor
construction
 Extent of research is starting to increase in
recent years
 S...
◦ Name Rick Bullers
◦ Title Geelong Resource Manager /
Senior Heritage Advisor
◦ Phone 0400 990 887
◦ Email rbullers@ehpar...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

'Meet the Archaeologist' - Rick Buller's Presentation_May2014

453 views

Published on

As part of the annual program of events for National Archaeology Week, Rick Bullers (bottom left photo below) was invited to give a talk about Maritime Archaeology during “Meet the Archaeologists Night” at Flinders University’s Adelaide CBD Campus. Rick presented the research rational and preliminary findings of a long-running research project on the “Archaeology of Australian Colonial Shipbuilding”.

Published in: Science, Technology, Business
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
453
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
109
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
3
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide
  • Hi everyone. Thanks for taking the time and interest to come along tonight. My name’s Rick Bullers, and I’m a consultant archaeologist based in Geelong, Victoria. My work environment covers most aspects of Australian archaeology, including Aboriginal and historical archaeology (both primarily land-based) and maritime archaeology, which is my primary area of interest.

    The topic I want to discuss tonight is the “archaeology of Australian colonial-era wooden shipbuilding.”

    I started this project back in 2004 as part of my postgraduate studies in maritime archaeology at Flinders University. I took a long break, but have recently started the research again and I can foresee this going for many years.
  • Due to the very broad scope that such an area of research has, it was necessary to define what the study actually wanted to achieve.

    For this project there were three main research questions, which tackled issues of vessel quality, technical adaptations and the economic, environmental and social factors that influenced shipbuilding.
  • As part of that, it was also necessary to define what the limitations of the research would be, principally because I started the study as part of a Masters thesis and continued it with a subsequent PhD research program.

    Given the inherent time and budget constraints in postgraduate programs, those limitations meant that the scope was necessarily quite limited.

  • At the start of the project I developed a fully-interogatable Access database. The idea behind the database was to capture data on all Australian-built colonial wooden sailing vessels, not just those that will be actively targeted for survey. This will help to provide more generalised statistical data.

    This database stores information on the vessel itself, including description, construction details, its fate, a description of the vessel at loss (i.e. had it been modified during its lifetime), and who its registered owners were.

    The latter leads into the next section of the database, which concerns the people involved with the vessel, e.g. the registered owners, the master and crew, and the shipwright. The database has the capability to store detailed information on all these people.

    The third section of the database involves companies. These may be connected with the people section of the database, and can include owners, agents, shipping firms etc.

    The database is by no means complete and is an ongoing and very time-consuming exercise. However, it provides a ready source of data for analysing the various attributes associated with colonial sailing vessels.
  • The first of the three main research questions is:

    “What was the quality of shipping built in colonial Australia? (were they poorly-built or cheaply built, or of a similar standard to British-built vessels?).”

    This question stems from historiographical statements and assumptions that early Australian-built ships were poorly constructed. For example, when Commissioner Bigg visited Australia in 1823, he commented that:

    “…colonial shipping was both badly equipped and badly navigated, and are little qualified to resist the heavy gales of wind with which the coast of New South Wales is visited during many seasons of the year” (Bach 1976: 73).

    We wanted to see if the archaeological data supported those claims.

    So, to address this question a number of sub-questions are asked that look at the material aspects of the vessels built in the colonial shipbuilding industry.

    Specifically, it will look at the materials used, the skills of the shipwrights, the purpose and intended areas of operation.

    What materials were available to the early shipwrights? (were high quality timbers, ironwork and fasteners readily available? At what cost?).
    What was the individual skill of the shipwrights? (where were they trained, experience, vessel types, what methods of joinery were used, etc).
    What was the physical environment the vessels were intended to operate in? (vessels built for river trade may be less robustly constructed than those for the coastal trade).
    What was the intended purpose of the vessel (vessels built for passenger transport may differ from those intended to transport cargoes of high specific gravity).

    To date, the archaeological data suggests that the Australian-built vessels were actually very well constructed and easily met the Lloyds vessels standards to achieve an insurance rating.

    The table illustrates a sample of vessels built by well-known shipwright John Wilson in Tasmania. Wilson was active from the 1860s until his death in 1900. His shipbuilding enterprise was continued by his sons and was still active at Port Cygent until quite recently.

    As you can see the ship losses can be categorised, and none of them can be attributed to faulty craftsmanship with average vessel ages of 40+ years before mostly accidental loss.

    Two vessels, in fact, still exist. One, Annie Watt, is now more than 140 years old. We’ll look at Annie Watt in a little more detail later.
  • The second question is: “What were the environmental, economic and social factors that influenced shipbuilding in colonial Australia?”

    Again, several sub-questions are asked:

    What factors determined the location of shipbuilding yards? (Suitability of local timber; availability of land with suitable deepwater frontage for launching, etc.).
    To what extent did timber properties and/or timber availability and/or timber trade influence the selection of timbers used in ship construction?
    To what extent did local shipbuilding industries contribute to community development?

    Vegetation surveys of naturally occurring timber species near the shipbuilding sites in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia where the VOI were constructed. This will be used for comparative analysis of timbers actually used in construction to ascertain the likelihood that locally available timbers were used, or whether timbers were imported from elsewhere

    Data will be fed into the database on Australian built ships (Bullers, 2005) for comparative and statistical analysis.

    As an example, the map shows the results of a vegetation survey I conducted around the town of American River on Kangaroo Island. Historical records sho that in the very early 1800s American sealers built a 40 ton schooner from local timber in the area. There is one place named Independence Point which is claimed to be the location where the ship was built. A team from Flinders conducted an archaeological survey of the entire area looking for evidence of the construction site.

    My role on that team was to survey the vegetation communities around the area and make assessments of the timber that would have existed at the time. This would be used to develop a model, based on timber and geomorphic suitability, for developing targeted search areas.
  • A subset of that question is to look at the timbers that actually form the structure of a vessel. That involves taking small samples from various structural components or scantlings and attempting to identify the timber at the cellular level.

    Unfortunately analysis of Australian timbers is a very specialised field. Unlike European timbers, which are readily identified, Australian timbers are very difficult to identify. For Eucalypts identification can sometimes only get down to genus level or, at best, to gum group (e.g. box, stringybark, etc.). That’s me at right trying to learn species identification – I soon gave up on that and left it to the experts who have accumulated decades of experience.

    More than 500 recognised Eucalypt species alone, with many more Australian species known to have been used (e.g. some Acacia, Melaleuca and others).

    If a species can be identified, then that can be compared to the known vegetation structure in the area it was built and can answer questions regarding local timber use or even timber trade (e.g. import form elsewhere).

    The centre image shows a section of the Mary Ellis wreck. The darker timbers are locally endemic Australian eucalypt, but the reddish/yellow timber is actually Douglas Fir from North America. It is likely that these timbers were part of repair work rather than original construction and provides data on import of North American timber in to South Australia.
  • The third main question asks:

    “What technological adaptations are evident in Australian-built colonial shipping?”

    This question is addressed by looking at the methods of construction, especially in light of the use of different timbers, compared to similar vessels built in Great Britain.

    What Australian timbers were suitable for particular tasks in building a vessel?

    How quickly did shipbuilders develop knowledge of the properties of Australian timbers?

    In what ways did construction methods differ from contemporary British-built vessels?

    Some of the data gained in the previous questions will help answer these. For example, identification of timbers for a range of scantlings can then address questions of why different species were used for different components. What were the tensile properties of these timbers and did the shipwrights deliberately manipulate these qualities during construction.
  • One of the things we can look at is:

    Whether construction techniques differed from, say, traditional British techniques, or

    Were they generally a continuation of the same tradition; or

    Did they start off the same and then adapt to the different needs of Australian conditions.

    So, what were some of the adaptations?

    Early Australian vessels, up until the mid-19th century tended to follow the designs of British-built ships of the period – that is:

    Deep draught;

    Round bottoms; and

    Bluff-bowed.

    From around the 1860s a new vernacular design of vessel started to appear, which was more suited to the Australian conditions. These vessels featured:

    Sharper bows;

    Shallow draughts;

    Flat bottoms; and centreboards.

    These images show the Alma Doepel, a wooden schooner built in NSW in 1903. As you can see it had a relatively flat bottom and shallow keel (the longer part of the keel is a later addition).

    Unusually, this vessel is fitted with two centreboards. Centreboards, like on small modern trailer-sailers, were used to help the vessel’s lateral steerage, as well as counteract the effect of the sails.

    More often than not, the centreboard casings were placed centrally so that the CB went through a slot in the keel. Some vessels however, had centreboard offset to one side of the keel.
  • Here, for example, we can look at iron knees.

    Knees are the angled components that reinforce the join between two surfaces, e.g. a deck beam and a futtock or frame. Knees were always timber until around the end of the 17th century when the quality of iron improved. The use of iron became more widespread and by 1805 they had formally been introduced as a building practice by the Royal Navy.

    In smaller Australian vessels, iron knees were used extensively for vertical knees (hanging knees and standing knees) or angled knees (rider-knees or dagger knees), whilst horizontal knees (lodging knees) tended to be made from timber.

    Here we have the remains of the ketch Mary Ellis, which wrecked at Sleaford Bay near Port Lincoln. On the site plan you can clearly see at least four iron knees and/or braces. In the centre of Section 2 you can see a knee ride (or dagger knee) lying flat on the hull remains. You can also see it in the photo at top left. A similar knee rider is still present in the intact vessel Annie Watt (bottom left) in the stern quarter. The presence of the knee in Section 2 of the Mary Ellis remains suggest that that section is part of the stern quarter. Another hanging knee is shown near Section 2 but not obviously connected to any remains so it is not known where in the hull it came from.

    We can compare some of these knees to those that were commercially available. In Britain blacksmithies often made commercial quantities of ships ironwork, such as knees, as shown in this catalogue example from Liverpools’ Cato, Miller & Co. One avenue to look into is whether such commercial availability was present in Australia or did local shipwrights rely on locally, made-to-order ironmongery.
  • The images to the left show the benefits of shallow drafts and flat bottoms. The vessel would move in close to shore at high tide and then, when the tide receded, the vessel would settle on the mud or sand, on its flat bottom, and bullock- or horse-drawn carts could then pull up alongside to load and unload cargo. This was particularly useful in the secondary ports where port infrastructure was either rudimentary or non-existent.

    This is Annie Watt, a centreboard ketch built in Tasmania in 1873 by accomplished shipwright John Wilson.

    The vessel was quickly purchased by South Australian interests for use in the gulf trade as part of SA’s Mosquito Fleet. It was removed from service in 1970 after nearly a century of operation.

    The image at bottom right shows a section drawing of Annie Watt’s centreboard, drawn by Bob Sexton in 1987. You can see that the centreboard itself is made from vertical slabs of timber, for lateral strength in a seaway, and this moves up and down inside the centreboard casing by winding chains at deck level.

    The interesting thing in our survey of the vessel is that inside the cargo bay, where the CB should have been, there is no evidence of either the CB casing or even the centreboard slot in the keelson. Why?
    Was it removed during restoration works in 1972 when it was going to be a floating restaurant for the new West Lakes development?
    Was it removed when it played a starring role in the move For the Term of His Natural Life, when it was modified to look like the brig Malabar.

    Bob Sexton’s plan, drawn in 1987 may indicate that the CB was still in place at that time (although his initial notes and survey may have been earlier). If it was still present in 1987, then why was it removed? There does not appear to be any sound reason.

    However it does show that relying solely on the extant features may be problematic.
  • Sometimes, the archaeological evidence provides as many questions as answers.

    The remains of the ketch Alert provides a rare opportunity to investigate a relatively original early centreboad structure.

    During the survey and test excavation an anomaly became apparent whereby the width of the keelson at the rear of the casing, if followed through to the front, left a large gap between the keelson and the sister keelson (bottom left). The photo at top right shows that there is one piece of timber that fills that gap. There are a number of hypotheses to explain this, but only further excavation can solve this particular problem.
  • Alert

    Alert was built in Tasmania in 1872 by brothers James and Davis McKay at Battery Point in Hobart. It was commissioned by SA interests specifically for the SA gulf trade.

    The vessel reached the end of its useful life in 1959 after nearly 90 years of service.

    It was abandoned in the ships graveyard at Jervois Basin in 1960, and then partially broken up and burnt to the waterline.

    The front half of the vessel was then covered in landfill in the 1970s, leaving only the stern-half exposed to wetting and drying of the tidal cycles.

    Assuming the front half is relatively intact and not crushed by the land-fill, the site offers ample opportunities to study:

    Not only construction aspects of Australian colonial ships;

    But also the changing rates of structural decay and site formation processes due to the different environmental conditions present at the same site.
  • Schooner Zephyr, built 1951, wrecked Marion Bay, east coast of Tasmania 1852.

    Only a year old, but well constructed, lost due to stress of weather, not poor construction.

    Went to the site expecting to find it covered in sand since it rarely gets exposed.

    To our delight we found that a storm had passed through the weekend before and removed more than a metre of beach sand exposing part of the port bow.
  • Exception to the rule: this one is a screw steamer not a sailing vessel, but was originally laid down as a ketch intended for the river sailing trade. However during its construction is was sold and converted to a steamer for use in the Huon Valley fruit trade.

    Vessel is another of John Wilson’s vessels, built in 1888 but lengthened 25’ at Wilson’s yard in 1900, with machinery overhauled and a new boiler installed.

    Abandoned at Ida Bay some time between 1918 and 1975. Still there tied up to the remains of a former jetty.

    Site was inspected opportunistically whilst in Tasmania in 2005.
  • Some surveys don’t go according to plan.

    We attempted to find and record the remains of the ketch Three Sisters, which was lost in 1899 at Lipson Cove near Tumby Bay.

    It was probably more wishful thinking that we would have the same luck that we did with the Zephyr.

    Unfortunately there were no storms uncovering the wreck that year.

    We had to settle for an air probe survey to try and locate the subsurface remains of the wreck.

    We did strike some timber remains, so I hope to go back at some stage when it does get exposed.

    I should say that whilst we could go and excavate, digging in loose soft sand between tides is no fun and generally doesn’t produce great results.
  • The ketch Mary Ellis was an interesting case study.

    Built at Kincumber on the Brisbane River in 1897, the vessel went ashore at Sleaford bay near Port Lincoln in 1907.

    The cargo was salvaged and over the next few decades the wreck was stripped of much of its timber for local buildings and even to construct another vessel.

    By 1945 only the bare framework remained on the beach.

    In 2005 we did a test excavation to find the remains, and this was followed up in 2006 by a full excavation during a Flinders Uni field school.

    The wreck is now high and dry above the high tide mark so excavation was not hampered by tidal cycles.

    Although only two small sections of the hull remain, they do provide some interesting insights into construction, including the use of imported timber for repair.
  • Of course, shipwrecks aren’t the only source of data.

    There are a few intact 19th century Australian-built sailing vessels left, but these are becoming very scarce.

    The loss of the ketch Enterprise, which was placed up on the hardstand at the Sea Life Centre at Bicheno in Tasmania in the 1980s, was unfortunately demolished last year.

    There are, of course, pros and cons to these vessels:

    They can be used as a source of scantling identification. We can use these to compare what we find in the archaeological remains of shipwrecks to give context.

    However, we generally can’t take samples (with some exceptions).

    Because they are intact and can also be difficult to see the full extent of some scantlings and difficult to determine joinery methods.

    Never-the-less, they are an important source of information.
  • 'Meet the Archaeologist' - Rick Buller's Presentation_May2014

    1. 1. National Archaeology Week: Meet the Archaeologists Night 23 May 2014 Rick Bullers – Geelong Resource Manager/Senior Heritage Advisor MMarArch; AIMA; MHAC (VIC); AACAI (Pend) Adelaide Melbourne Geelong Brisbane
    2. 2. Research Design and Objectives
    3. 3. Study limited to:  Vessels: ◦ built in Australia before 1901; ◦ constructed of wood; and ◦ principally sail-driven.  Vessel/remains located in SA, NSW, Vic, Tas.  Vessel/remains location already known;  Sufficient structure remaining. Currently 65 Vessels of Interest (VOI) 3 Research Limitations Ketch Alert, Port Adelaide, c.1880 (SLSA PRG 1373/35/52 )
    4. 4. 4 Australian Ships/Shipwrecks Database
    5. 5.  Quality of Construction (were they poorly-built or cheaply built, or of a similar standard to British-built vessels?). ◦ Historiographical assumptions of poor construction ◦ Archaeological research indicates Australian Colonial-built vessels generally well constructed 5 Research Questions (1) Treenail, ketch Alert, Port Adelaide Cause No. Avg Age Wrecked – Stress of Weather 12 43.2 Wrecked Cause Unknown 3 41.3 Broken up 1 48 Abandoned 1 44 Human Error/Fire 1 18 Still Existing (e.g. Annie Watt) 2 100+ Fate Unknown (e.g. transferred overseas) 4 ? Total 24 Longevity of Shipwright John Wilson’s Vessels:
    6. 6.  What were the environmental, economic and social factors that influenced shipbuilding in colonial Australia? ◦ Vegetation/Timber suitability (e.g. Independence survey, Kangaroo Island) ◦ Wreck’s actual timbers vs construction site vegetation  Vegetation Surveys ◦ Shipyards in NSW, Vic, Tas & SA. ◦ Comparative analysis with timber samples from VOI. 6 Research Questions (2)
    7. 7. Australian Colonial Shipbuilding Timber Analysis  More than 500 recognised Eucalypt species/subspecies  Changes to species since Colonial period  Original construction or later repairs? 7 Ketch Mary Ellis, Sleaford Bay, Eyre Peninsula Schooner Zephyr, Marion Bay, Tasmania
    8. 8.  What technological adaptations are evident in Australian-built colonial shipping? 8 Research Questions (3) Deckhook, Apron & breasthook, Alma Doepel Sternson and stern gland, Annie Watt
    9. 9. Australian Colonial Shipbuilding Adaptations to Australian Conditions – Flat Bottoms/Centreboards 9 Cross section, at forward centreboard (above) and profile (below) (Courtesy Alma Doepel Supporters Club/Sail and Adventure Ltd) Forward Centreboard Keel Slot, 2014 Forward Centreboard, 2014
    10. 10. Australian Colonial Shipbuilding Comparison of Construction Techniques – Iron Knees 10 Site Plan: Ketch Mary Ellis, Sleaford Bay, Eyre Peninsula (Bullers 2008) Knee rider, ketch Annie Watt Cato, Miller & Co’s iron knees (Gore’s Liverpool Directory, 1864) Knee rider, ketch Mary Ellis, Sleaford Bay, Eyre Peninsula
    11. 11. Australian Colonial Shipbuilding Adaptations to Australian Conditions – Flat Bottoms/Centreboards 11 Recording the ketch Annie Watt, Port Adelaide, 2007 Ketch Annie Watt, loading, Black Point, Yorke Peninsula, c1927 (Courtesy SLSA) Excerpt of Annie Watt plans (Courtesy Bob Sexton,1987)
    12. 12. Australian Colonial Shipbuilding Adaptations to Australian Conditions – Flat Bottoms/Centreboards 12 Centreboard casing, ketch Alert, Port Adelaide (Bullers, in press) Test excavation, ketch Alert, Port Adelaide, 2007
    13. 13. Survey and Excavation: Some Case Studies
    14. 14. 14 Ketch Alert (1872-1959), Jervois Basin Ships Graveyard Baseline offset survey in 2005 (left), test excavation (right) and final site plan (above) (Bullers, in press) Alert in the Port River c.1880 (SLSA PRG 1373/35/52)
    15. 15. 15 Schooner Zephyr (1851-1852), Marion Bay, Tas Baseline offset survey in 2005 (above left) and final site plan (above) (Bullers, 2007) Magnetometer survey in 2005 (left) and metal detector (above)
    16. 16. 16 Ketch/SS Victoria (1888-1918+), Ida Bay, Tas Remains still at Ida Bay jetty in 2005 (top &left) and at high tide (above) (Bullers, 2005) Victoria launched as a screw steamer (Source: Graeme-Evans & Wilson 1996: 42)
    17. 17. 17 Ketch Three Sisters (1874-1899), Lipson Cove, Eyre Peninsula Excerpt from field notes Port Lincoln Times article, May 1986 South Australian Register article, 21 March 1899
    18. 18. 18 Ketch Mary Ellis (1897-1907), Sleaford Bay, Eyre Peninsula Recording during test excavation for author’s Masters thesis, February 2005 Excavation during Flinders University Field School, February 2006 Mary Ellis wreck c.1945 (Courtesy Port Lincoln Times)
    19. 19. 19 Intact Vessel Recording Ketch May Queen (b.1867), Constitution Dock, Hobart, 2004 Schooner Alma Doepel (b.1903), Melbourne Docklands, 2014 Ketch Annie Watt, (b.1873), SAMM, Port Adelaide, 2007 Ketch Terralinna (b.1922), Battery Point, Hobart, 2004
    20. 20.  Preliminary results dispute claims of poor construction  Extent of research is starting to increase in recent years  Study is ongoing – current sample is relatively small 20
    21. 21. ◦ Name Rick Bullers ◦ Title Geelong Resource Manager / Senior Heritage Advisor ◦ Phone 0400 990 887 ◦ Email rbullers@ehpartners.com.au www.ehpartners.com.au 21

    ×