Cocos Keeling islands: Searching for ivory as indicator to wrecks

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The Wreck Check team were conscious that the 7-day stay on Cocos Keeling Islands was a narrow window of survey opportunity, but luckily we were able to go out on the water everyday. North Keeling, the top survey priority, is 28 km due north from the main atoll and the gap between each island is subject to deep ocean swells. Operating out of the six-meter-long Park’s boat Pulu Bill the journey was bouncy at times as we punched into deep ocean swells.

We surveyed a lot of parts of the island with the magnetometer again and besides that we visited sites of known wrecks to document them using photogrammetry and by doing corrosion measurements. One of the highlights of this week was diving on the SMS Emden, see the previous blog.

Monday was the last day of fieldwork on Cocos Island and for this season. We have completed the survey around Turks Reef and Horsburgh Island. Except for our first day on the water, over the week on Cocos Island we have contended with 10-15 knot SE winds and swell 1-2 meters. This has definitely limited our opportunities to survey and dive in our target areas. To exacerbate the difficulties, targets in the 6 – 8 meter depth contour around the atoll are usually just out of the surf zone making safe access and exit enormously problematic in large swell. Besides Turks Reef and Horsburg Island we were able to survey the south and parts of the west side of West Island, the north and west side of Direction Island. These were the most important parts of the island to survey as ships would have passed here because of the shipping route at that time.

The Cocos-Keeling Islands.

As always we have worked hard to achieve what could be done within the parameters of weather. Work inside the lagoon is possible and several sites have been dived and surveyed when weather has driven us back into the lagoon. We dived a SIEV (Suspected Illegal Entry Vehicle) that was found last year, a working barge, an unidentified wreck that we think is the Robert Portner. and we also snorkeled at the Phaeton wreck site. At all these sites we took pictures and video for photogrammetry and where possible with the current and swell we also did corrosion measurements.

While information collected from the Emden continues to be worked up our primary quest to search for the Fortuyn has been heavily impacted. Progress was made on following up on a report to the Queensland Museum in the 1980’s of a discovery of an elephant tusk at the southern end of the runway on West Island. This is relevant because another VoC shipwreck the Aagtekerke is reported as carrying elephant tusks. The team were able to walk the beach area and surveyed directly off shore with the magnetometer.

On the last day we were are all packing, backing up data and getting ready to fly home. Still, in the time left in the morning Graeme and Andy managed to squeeze in talking to four classes ranging from Kindergarten to grades 3-4 on Home Island. Some great questions and lots of good engagement from the students.

Team member Andrew Viduka talking to the school kids on Home Island.
Team member Andrew Viduka talking to the school kids on Home Island.

While the next steps for the team are to process collected data over the coming months from the magnetometer surveys, the photogrammetry and the corrosion measurements, we would now like to recognize the wonderful support of our partner, sponsors and supporters who enabled this fieldwork to be undertaken. Our research partner the Maritime Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Culture, The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Australia, Silent World Foundation, Parks Australia and the Australian Government Department of the Environment. We would also like to recognize the excellent contribution to this years fieldwork by Shinatria Adhityatama (ARKENAS, Indonesia) and Robert de Hoop (University of Southern Denmark). Without the significant support of the Maritime Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Culture their attendance would not have been possible. Special thanks to Rob Muller, Ishmael MacRae and Trish Flores of Parks Australia for the assistance.

Over Maritiem Programma

Het Maritiem Programma van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed houdt zich bezig met het onderzoek naar scheepswrakken, bruggen, havens en andere maritieme landschappen. Het doel is om kennis, onderzoek, beleid, samenwerking en educatie op het gebied van maritiem erfgoed in Nederland een stevige basis te geven. Het programma loopt van 2012 tot en met 2015.

Een gedachte over “Cocos Keeling islands: Searching for ivory as indicator to wrecks

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