The South Australian hypotheses

Author: Timothy Zapor

Zapor, Timothy, 2020 The South Australian hypotheses, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This thesis uses a case study from Encounter Bay, South Australia to examine the impacts of vessel loss in colonial South Australian whaling. A collaborative project to undertake study on South Australia’s ‘first-fleet’ and other immigrant vessels began in 2018 with the search for the barque South Australian. One of the first sixteen vessels to bring free immigrants to Australia and one of South Australia’s first whaling ships. South Australian is the oldest recorded shipwreck in South Australia, sinking in 1837, just one year after the formation of the colony. Originally built Marquess of Salisbury in England in 1819 as a Falmouth packet ship in service of the Royal Post Office, South Australian carried mail around the globe until it was purchased by The South Australian Company and sailed for Australia. In early 2018, the research team located the articulated remains of a wooden vessel in Encounter Bay, South Australia using a combination of historical records and local community knowledge. The Encounter Bay wreck is believed to be that of South Australian.

Encounter Bay and surrounding waters are the resting place of many other known shipwrecks. Most of these wrecks have been identified only through the historic record and their exact location is unknown. Positive identification of the Encounter Bay wreck is necessary to establish if the wreck site is indeed that of South Australian or one of the other vessels wrecked nearby. The location of the site and orientation of the remains provide an initial affiliation with historical documents pertaining to South Australian’s wrecking event. This initial affiliation allows for the undertaking of historical research into the wrecking event of South Australian and its impact to South Australia’s early whaling activities. A vessel lost so early in a colony’s history while involved with the first maritime economy of the area may have a large cultural impact.

This study set out to record the archaeological remains of the Encounter Bay wreck through underwater survey techniques, i.e. baseline-offset mapping, photography, 3D modelling, timber species identification, and metal analysis. With no previous archaeological data, recording of the Encounter Bay wreck allows for a study into the construction of the vessel as well as helps to identify the wreck. Analysis of historic documentation surrounding the wrecking event of a colonial whaling vessel evaluates the cultural impacts that the loss of an important vessel has on a fledgling whaling industry, if any. Identification of the remains and analysis of the cultural impact of South Australian’s loss are not mutually exclusive in this study. Even with a negative identification the research will provide information on a newly located wreck as well as evaluate the cultural importance of a vessel known to have operated in the region.

Keywords: Shipwreck, South Australia, South Australian, The South Australian Company, Vessel Loss, Cultural Impact

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2020
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Wendy van Duivenvoorde