Action and adventure

Thursday 19 April

Today was a day of action and adventure. It started early for some and I mean early! The boat crew was up by 5.00 am to launch and get Trim around to the pick-up point for the first dive crew of the day. A big hand to Peter Harvey, Rhonda Steele and Toni Massey from Heritage Victoria and James Parkinson from Professional Diving Services (PDS) for that dawn breaking effort. Particular mention must go to James who had a big night running people through dive checks in the local pool followed by a short stint of night time tank filling. No man has given……. 

Andy Viduka                     

Brad Duncan and Andy Viduka on board JUPB1 barge
Amer Khan, man of action and contemplation (photo by Andy Viduka) 

Today we had some special guests the first of these were more PDS staff led by Malcolm Venturoni. Mal, as he is more affectionately known, is a long time member of the Maritime Archaeological Association of Victoria (MAAV) and a keen participant on any maritime archaeology project. Today his job was purely commercial as he and the team erected a scaffolding landing off the side of the barge to enable even easier transfer of equipment and people.

Next we received our first on site media representative Stephan Hoffacker and yes, we did say his last name carefully for the more naughty minded amongst us. Stephan is a freelance cameraman currently doing a job for Discovery Channel Canada.  Stephan was greeted with the standard extensive deck briefing for OHS prior to filming the activities on the dive deck and interviewing the lead Chief Investigator Peter Veth and Chief Investigator Mark Staniforth. I volunteered to be interviewed but was turned down as a face for radio. What did he mean? After much persistence on my part, okay I begged, he did come and film the x-ray lab. Nice to get visitors in the donga as 360 degree x-ray imaging of objects through rotations of 4 degrees of arc can get repetitive.

As far as filming on the dive deck went, unfortunately today was not the blue sky sunny conditions of the last two days. No, the weather had reverted to a more typical blustery overcast day that has made Melbourne famous for coffee, a horse race and shopping! Taking one for the team, Mark Staniforth and Eric Bruning went for a cameraman directed dive and eventually even contributed effort to the sandbagging program. Every cloud has a sand bag or something like that! No, all jokes aside, the importance of getting the story of archaeology and archaeologists doing archaeology out into the public domain cannot be diminished. We have let the salvage companies steal our imprimatur and be the mouth piece of underwater excavation, while we as archaeologists have been so heavily restricted by the costs of conservation and ongoing collection management. This project has solid rationales that will eventually assist in developing at least a national methodology for the rapid excavation and documentation of underwater sites. Such a methodology will help to mitigate the cost of conservation and ongoing collection management through targeted reburial of materials that are can be preserved in a given environment. This method does not preclude the need for ongoing site management but will, if successful, offer a process that enables the archaeology, reburial and ongoing site management to be more accurately costed for wooden hulled shipwrecks and their associated artefacts. What is the value of that I hear you say! Simply for sites under threat of development, or where a researcher wishes to excavate to gain knowledge, a more accurate cost of activities can be projected. For site managers this means being able to impose clearer conditions on developers whose activities directly threaten impact on underwater cultural heritage. The appearance of media is therefore a very positive outcome and hopefully preludes more national and international showcasing of the project. 

While the frenzy of filming was taking place, topside we witnessed some phenomenal multi-tasking skills with Matt Carter (aka Mittens) and Deb Shefi eating Doritos whilst belaying, or was it meant to be the other way?  Georgia Wright was enjoying herself wearing a range of fashionable ear muffs for the discerning tank filler, straightening out communication lines, helping divers into their gear and generally being useful on a busy deck. I noticed Rhonda Steele and Toni Massey also sporting these tasteful ear muff designer additions and wonder if a small fashion statement is being made?

Today the conservation scientists and artifact registrar on this expedition were finalizing preparations back at the Portarlington home base prior to setting up on the barge tomorrow.  Vicki Richards and Dr Ian MacLeod have the conservation job well in hand and Dr Jen Rodrigues is as always on her best form. With luck they will be enjoying 5-10 knots and sunshine tomorrow.

On the archaeological front good things continue to happen.  While no actual digging has taken place other key activities are being done. Sandbags are being distributed around the site to assist with the site stabilization and reburial activities post the excavation. A nod to Amer Khan and Mike Nash for kicking off today’s exciting round of underwater aerobic exercises. Control points, which are used as the basis for surveying in features and finds on the site during the excavation, were hammered in yesterday and finalized today using the towering strength of Dr Brad Duncan. GPS location fixes for two of the control points were acquired during slack water through the tag team effort of Mark and Deb. These positions were rather vital for us to collect as they enabled the site to be geo-referenced. The data was immediately plugged into the Site Recorder surveying program that is being used on this project. All of a sudden we are a lot closer to starting the actual excavation….. 

by Andy Viduka
Maritime Archaeologist
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC)