Snug as a bug in a rug

26 November 2012

It has been an epic week on Clarence and as today is the last diving day it is as good a time as any to pause and reflect on all the work we have achieved. With the weather gods in our favour we have dived every day except one over the past week and have averaged 16 dives a day.

At the beginning of the week we focused on preparing the site to be put to bed. A survey of the port side recorded the state of the upright timbers, as this area was not affected by the excavation it was a great chance to see how the original sand levels were fairing. We were happy to note that it was much the same as our 2009 survey. A marine ecology study was undertaken by Kate Pritchard from Professional Diving Services (PDS) and she did an excellent job of recording the animal and plant life colonising the wreck, ably helped by myself who enjoyed the best dive swimming around taking pictures of animals, and not moving any sandbags! The last task on the list was sand profiling; Kate and I took sediment depth measurements every 10cm in 2 x 2m runs in the reburied excavation trench. This was very important as it gave an indication of how much sand cover still remained on the excavated area and can be used to compare with the profiling done in the same area in June.

With the initial tasks finished it was now time to deploy the behemoth that is Clarence’s  shade cloth blanket. Three 25m long pieces of cloth had been stitched together to create one large cloth measuring 25m x 10m. This was then folded and roped by Vicki and Jon in an ingenious way that enabled it to be unfurled without enveloping any of the divers.

James and Kurt deploying the shade cloth. Photo by Jon Carpenter.

In an epic morning James, Enrique, Kurt, Toni, Vicki and Jon managed to get the whole cloth spread out and sandbagged. The remainder of the crew then moved in to help move some of the 1800 sand and rock bags scattered around the site. Once this was completed there was no time to rest as we also had to deploy the tarps. We used three tarps to cover the entire site; once in position they were stitched together with cable ties and covered in sandbags. The tarps will help to protect the shade cloth and the wreck beneath from anchor damage. 

Today, as our last day on site, we are moving the last of the sandbags to cover the tarps and making sure Clarence is all wrapped up snug as a bug in a rug. We have done a huge amount of work in the last 10 days and it is a testament to all the volunteers and colleagues who have helped us.

The final sandbag (number 3500) is prepared for deployment. Photo by Jon Carpenter.

We now have muscles on our muscles and our fair share of bruises but everyone is still smiling and keen for the next dive. Hopefully the seafood buffet tonight helps to ease the minds of those who are waking in the night from dreams of moving sandbags. This is not the end of the project but it is the end of sandbags……we hope….. 

By Rhonda Steel

Maritime Archaeologist
Heritage Victoria