A leading archaeologist from The University of Western Australia will head a team of 60 people excavating a significant colonial shipwreck in Victoria's Port Phillip Bay next month.
Lead chief investigator Professor Peter Veth, from UWA's School of Social and Cultural Studies, said the three-year project would examine the excavation, reburial and preservation of the Clarence, a historically significant colonial wooden trading vessel wrecked off Portarlington, - near Geelong - in 1850.
He will be joined by a leading specialist in colonial shipbuilding and maritime excavations, chief investigator Associate Professor Mark Staniforth, from Monash University, to study colonial shipbuilding through a detailed excavation program.
UWA, Monash University, the Australian National University and the Western Australian Museum have joined forces on the major national maritime archaeology project, which is funded by the Australian Research Council.
Researchers will use X-ray imaging of artefacts retrieved from the wreck, as well as detailed spatial recording, photography and planning of the wreck's structure.
Partner investigators Dr Ian MacLeod and Vicki Richards from the WA Museum will use cutting-edge geochemical technology to analyse the wreck's deposits and surrounding seabed.
After recording artefacts in purpose-built laboratories, researchers will re-bury the artefacts in controlled environments which will be monitored by specialist conservators over many years.
The researchers will record the degree to which domestic versus traditional (namely British) shipbuilding techniques were used, study how shipbuilding methods were designed to suit new environments and the use of different timbers.
They will also document the presence and nature of durable organic materials such as wooden pulleys, leather and rope, and analyse other materials, such as metal fastenings and fittings, to investigate innovation in building practice.
Professor Veth said the Clarence wreck was chosen for its significance and access.
Excavation work will start on April 16 and continue for a month, involving maritime archaeologists and conservators from most State and Territory museums and heritage authorities.
A jack-up barge will be moored next to the wreck to house laboratories, maritime archaeology teams and commercial diving and support crews.
"There will be a total of 60 people on site, including conservators, archaeologists, X-ray imaging specialists and commercial dive support teams," Professor Veth said.
The project brings together for the first time 10 partner organisations in Australia, including UWA, Monash, the WA Museum and the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology, as well as students and volunteers.
Professor Veth said April 18 was the International Day for Monuments and Sites, celebrating the diversity of the world's heritage. Australia's International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) was organising a symposium to be held in Sydney to coincide with the event.
Professor Peter Veth (UWA School of Social and Cultural Studies) (+61 8) 6488 1807 / (+61 4) 06 376 971
Associate Professor Mark Staniforth (Monash University) (+61 4) 08 802 198
Cassandra Philippou (Project Manager) (+61 4) 14 596 166
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783