Nathan Richards (Flinders University, Australia)

From 3-18 February 2001, Flinders University ran its inaugural maritime archaeological field-school course (ARCH 3304) at Port Victoria, on Yorke Peninsula, west of Adelaide, South Australia.

Commencing with a two-day AIMA/NAS Part 1 Course on the weekend of 3 and 4 February, and followed by 14 days in the field, the 16 students in attendance were exposed to a range of sites, techniques and technologies associated with maritime archaeological practice. While the AIMA/NAS scheme (commenced in South Australia in 1997 by the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology) was designed as a training outlet in the United Kingdom by the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) for avocational maritime enthusiasts and sports divers, it has been found to be an important means of ensuring standards in training for terrestrially inclined archaeology students. Other benefits through the use of a structured and accumulative training scheme, such as AIMA/NAS, mean that out of such activities, a series of reports can be produced, which adds significantly to the already extensive archive of material on maritime heritage sites. This also allows students to augment University training with other modules in the AIMA/NAS scheme, with some students completing their AIMA/NAS part 2 certification, and all participants adding to their AIMA/NAS part 2 and 3 modules das a consequence of the field school.

Many organisations were represented, with field-school staff members Dr. Mark Staniforth, Matt Schlitz, Nathan Richards, Chris Lewczak, Cass Philippou (Flinders University), Associate Professor Peter Veth (James Cook University), Bill Jeffery, Terry Arnott, Rick James (Heritage South Australia), Vicky Richards, Corioli Souter (Western Australian Maritime Museum) and Viv Moran (Queensland Museum) all providing appreciated assistance, guidance and unique expertise during the duration of the field school. Support was also obtained from the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Society for Underwater Historical Research Inc. Special thanks must go to local Balgowan resident Stuart Moody for access to his voluminous local knowledge and extremely charitable assistance, without which the proceedings of the two weeks would not have run nearly as smoothly.

A diverse array of tasks were carried out on a range of sites, including wreck and jetty site inspections, wreck surveys using a range of recording techniques, corrosion potential measurement tasks, magnetometer searches and exposure to limited wreck excavation, in-water communication systems, underwater still photography, digital video and cutting edge High Precision Acoustic Survey System (HPASS) technology.

Investigations of allocated sections beneath the historic Port Victoria jetty were a major focus of the work carried out. The jetty, built in 1878 to service the local wheat growers in the area and came to be the focal point of South Australia’s fourth largest shipping port. Constructed of jarrah, ironbark and red gum, with a later addition of steel replacement piles and sporting tracks for horse drawn carts an L-head was added in 1883 and it saw continued use up until the 1950s.

A range of shipwreck sites was visited around adjacent Wardang Island, a local shipping hazard since 1907 with the wrecking of the three-masted iron barque Aagot (built 1882). The three masted iron ship Songvaar (ex Barcore) (1884-1912), the schooner rigged screw steamer Australian (1879-1912), the three masted iron schooner MacIntyre (1877-1927) and the composite built three masted fore-and-aft schooner Moorara (1909-1975) were the main focal points for wreck survey exercises. Also visited were the remains of the auxiliary ketch Victor, wrecked close to shore at Balgowan.

The field school is scheduled again for February 2002. Contact Dr. Mark Staniforth on (+61 8) 82015195 or at