Uncovering Queensland’s sunken treasures

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Queenslanders are encouraged to get involved in National Archaeological Week (20 - 26 May) by providing any information they have about ship wreck sites along the state’s east coast to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell said the department was looking for any information relating to ship wreck sites, including known dive sites, unusual fishing spots or net ‘hook ups’, photographs, drawings or family records of shipwrecks, to help it piece together a part of Queensland’s history.

“The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) is leading a five-year Queensland Historic Shipwreck Survey which involves carrying out dive inspections on identified wrecks and coordinating remote sensing surveys of targeted areas within Moreton Bay and along Queensland’s east coast,” Mr Powell said.

“Estimates by marine archaeologists indicate that, since the 18th century, more than 1400 ships have been wrecked or abandoned along the Queensland coastline, on fringing reefs or inland waters.

“While we know the locations of ships that were deliberately scuttled on beaches and foreshores or abandoned up rivers and creeks, others were lost at sea and never seen again and we are keen to find exactly where those wrecks are.”

Mr Powell said detailed information collated through this historic survey would be used to update the Australian National Shipwreck Database (ANSD).

“Members of the public have a rare opportunity to critique information, conduct research and visit these unique heritage sites,” Mr Powell said.

“While ships need to be wrecked for 75 years or more to automatically be declared historic, more recent shipwrecks can be declared historic if, for example, they are associated with important people or events.”

Mr Powell said there were a number of World War Two era shipwrecks that had been declared historic in recent years including three United States warships lost during the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942 and the AHS Centaur, which was torpedoed off Moreton Bay in 1943.

EHP’s Principal Heritage Officer Paddy Waterson said the shipwreck survey, which commenced in July 2011, had initially focussed on the state’s south-east and would move progressively up the coast during the course of the project.

“Queensland’s coastline is littered with untold stories under the sea,” Mr Waterson said.

“We know there are more than 1,400 historic shipwrecks or abandoned vessels along the State’s coast, as well as in our rivers and bays. But in most cases, data on these shipwrecks is scant and often inaccurate.

“Every one of these ships is an irreplaceable archaeological site which can tell us much about the lives of past generations of Queenslanders and others who visited our shores.

”Information the public can provide will also be vital in discovery more about our past.

“Local residents and tourists are invited to visit and enjoy our maritime heritage but are reminded that it is illegal to interfere with these fragile sites,” Mr Waterson said.

The Queensland Heritage Act 1992 and the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 provide protection for and guides the management of all shipwrecks and associated artefacts older than 75 years.

Members of the public can conduct a search for a shipwreck, relic or particular area on the ANSD’s database at www.environment.gov.au and if their information does not appear to be known, click on the link and submit a ‘Notification of Discovery’ report.

Alternatively, details of a shipwreck or relic can be emailed to archaeology@derm.qld.gov.auor given over the phone on 13 QGOV (13 74 68) during office hours.

The location of the Grace Darling wreck, near Bulwer on Moreton Island, was verified in September last year thanks to information provided by members of the local diving community.

For more information on Queensland’s shipwrecks visit the EHP website at www.ehp.qld.gov.au

Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection
The Honourable Andrew Powell
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Uncovering Queensland’s sunken treasures

Environment and Heritage Protection : Queensland Government :
GPO Box 2454, Brisbane QLD 4001, Queensland Wide
13 74 68
Environment and Heritage Protection : Queensland Government
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