From the Australian National Maritime Museum:
Wrecks and Reefs
29 November 2012 – 3 March 2013
Through the underwater lens of maritime archaeology, explore four Australian shipwreck sites on remote coral reefs off tropical Queensland – the early colonial ships Mermaid, Porpoise, Royal Charlotte and Cato. Vivid images by expedition photographer Xanthe Rivett follow the team led by the Australian National Maritime Museum and reveal the unique marine environments they encountered.
Join the expedition team on this underwater story of archaeological discovery and admire the natural beauty of the coral reefs and cays, the backdrop of these ship wrecks.
Mermaid Project 2009
In 2009 the expedition team searched for and surveyed the HMCS Mermaid which was wrecked on an unidentified reef system south of Cairns, Queensland, in 1829 whilst on a voyage to Port Raffles in far northern Australia. HMCSMermaid circumnavigated Australia in the early 1820s under the command of Phillip Parker King, filling in the gaps left by the previous surveys of Matthew Flinders.
Wreck Reefs Project 2010
On an isolated reef system 400 kilometres east of Gladstone, Queensland, the expedition team surveyed and carried out archaeological assessments of HMS Porpoise and the merchant ship Cato both wrecked in 1803, the merchant ship Mahaica wrecked in 1854 and the associated shipwreck survivors’ camps on Porpoise Cay and Bird Island. On board HMSPorpoise was the marine surveyor and explorer Lieutenant Matthew Flinders who was returning to England, via India, to report on the first European circumnavigation of the Australian mainland.
Frederick Reef Project 2010 and 2012
In October 2010 a small team of divers and archaeologists visited Frederick Reef, an isolated reef system 450 kilometres north-east of Gladstone Queensland, in search of theRoyal Charlotte. The Royal Charlotte was wrecked in 1825 whilst on a passage to India with soldiers and their families in 1829. In 2012 the team returned and located, surveyed and carried out archaeological assessment of the wreck site.
Island and Cays
Expedition teams visited Bird Island, Porpoise, Hope and West Cays to survey the sites of shipwreck survivors’ camps. These cays and islands along with the various reef systems of Wreck Reefs are now protected environmental areas in the 972,000 square kilometre Coral Sea Conservation Zone which was established in May 2009.
Accompanying the museum’s archaeologists and divers, from the Silentworld Foundation, were two marine scientists from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science. The expeditions provided the marine scientists the opportunity to undertake biological surveys and assessments of remote reef systems in the Coral Sea and to seek possible evidence of the impact of climate change on these coral reefs. The coral appeared healthy with few signs of coral bleaching and there was no sign of the predatory Crown of Thorns starfish which have devastated up to 21% of the Great Barrier Reef in the last 27 years.
Read the blogs from all three of the expeditions.