Flinders University

Rangitoto Island Abandoned Vessels and Baches—Archaeology Fieldwork 2014, NZ

My name is Kurt Bennett and I am currently completing my Masters of Maritime Archaeology degree at Flinders University, South Australia. My thesis research investigates salvage and re-use of abandoned vessel material on Rangitoto Island, New Zealand. Specifically, I am looking into how the material has been used to aid the construction of the islands’ baches (holiday homes). Having grown up on the North Shore, Auckland, I have many childhood memories of visiting the island, including hiking the summit, exploring the lava caves and fishing at the Beacon. My research now brings me back to understand cultural interaction with abandoned vessels and to promote maritime cultural heritage on the island. This also includes documenting a disappearing historical resource (the Rangitoto Island bach) before it is too late.

On Rangitoto Island

On Rangitoto Island

The archaeological investigation is being carried out on the abandoned vessels and baches between the 8th and 20th July 2014. There are 13 known vessels that were abandoned between 1890 and 1947 in Boulder Bay (also known as Wreck Bay), located on the northern side of Rangitoto. The types of vessels range from wooden barques and schooners to an iron-hulled coastal steamer. Methods of abandonment include being beached along the shoreline, burnt or dismantled.

The baches on the island were first constructed c.1910. Leases and construction was halted in 1937 following introduction of new building laws. In the same year leases were renewed for a further 20 years. In 1957, 99 leases for existing baches were renewed, but with restrictions. The baches could not be altered, sold, exchanged or rented. During the 1970s and 1980s many baches were subsequently demolished as many owners passed away. In 1990, 34 leases were renewed for a further 33 years and demolition was temporarily halted while the Department of Conservation carried out an architectural and historical study. In 1997 the New Zealand Historic Places Trust registered the baches as historic areas. The baches are of historical significance that reflects a period of personal freedom in New Zealand’s history. This investigation aims to survey all beached vessel remains and all 140 bach sites. The surveys are non-disturbance and non-intrusive.

Ngapuhi stern at Wreck Bay

Ngapuhi stern at Wreck Bay

On the Day of Archaeology 2014, I began the first day of fieldwork, having been delayed for two days due to bad weather which resulted in the ferry being cancelled. I caught up with one of the Islands’ rangers, John Duggan, who kindly gave me a ride to Beacon End (McKenzie Bay). I allowed 2 hours to walk one way from the Islington Bay wharf so a ride was a big help.The ferry departed at 0915 and arrived at Islington Bay around 1025. Once I was dropped off at Beacon End I proceeded to start from the south and work my way back up north. The first bach site played hide and seek and was not found until 1115. It was the site of S. Luxford according to the map.

One of the baches at Beacon End

One of the baches at Beacon End

There was no bach left but its footprint in the scrub can still be seen. Amazingly there were still remnants of beehives and evidence that the island at one time contributed to the honey industry—Pohutukawa honey! The second and last site for the day was the Eagles family bach. The bach was amazing and in such an idyllic spot. You could tell it was a happy place full of lasting memories. This was the last site to be visited due to allowing the 2 hours for the trek back to catch the ferry. No ship material was seen on that day, but not to worry as I have over 100 sites still to visit. Also, Rangitoto is deceivingly large, I managed to clock up 13.5km walking today. Not bad for 5 hours of work!

The Day of Archaeology was just the first day of fieldwork for this project. If you would like to follow the rest of the project, please see our blog at http://rangitotoarchaeology14.wordpress.com.

Rangitoto at sunrise

Rangitoto at sunrise


Organizing a Student Run Archaeology Conference – NASC 2014

My name is Chelsea Colwell-Pasch and I am a post-graduate master’s student at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. I am enrolled in the Maritime Archaeology program there and originally hail from New Brunswick, Canada.  For the Day of Archaeology, 26 July 2013, I spent the day organizing and brainstorming for the National Archaeology Student Conference (NASC) that will be held at Flinders University next April. While archaeology is a broad field and now encompasses many sub-disciplines (like Maritime Archaeology) it is through conferences where a meeting of the minds can occur. With NASC, all sub-fields will be welcomed and the focus will be on students; a conference FOR students BY students. If you have never experienced a conference before, it is a three to four day event that follows a structure and allows registered attendees to participate in or observe various presentations and happenings. It is a valuable venue for honing your public speaking and presentation skills; for staying up-to-date on the latest research and ideas; and for networking with the best and brightest in your field, creating valuable contacts.

I was accepted onto the organizing committee in late March 2013 after a call for interested students who want to assist at the conference was put out to the archaeology students at Flinders. There was an impressive amount of interest from the archaeology department student body and the organizing committee was formed that day. Now you may be thinking that meeting in May 2013 for an event held in April 2014 is very keen, but being students, all we can hope to do is work on this project in our spare time. It takes a year to organize the necessary components of a great conference, and our committee is set on making this a GREAT conference.  In order to make organizing easier and improve our time management we opted to form sub-committees for various aspects of the conference. We have a Chair, secretary and treasurer as well as six working groups or sub-committees, each with a group leader. The six working groups are: 1) Administration, venues and judging, 2) Publicity, stationary and IT, 3) Catering, 4) Sponsorship and fundraising, 5) Scheduling, and 6) Accommodation. I am in the sponsorship and fundraising work group and it has been my task to come up with ideas on how to fund this event. Everything from corporate sponsorships to bake sales and raffle draws. We are students after all.

The logo for the National Archaeology Student Conference to be held at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia 2014

The logo for the National Archaeology Student Conference to be held at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia 2014

After an extended absence, a small group of Flinders students decided to restart NASC, hence having Flinders as the venue and having Flinders students run and organize it. With a large campus set in the beautiful Adelaide foothills, we could not have asked for a more accommodating locale. The views of the city and the Southern Ocean from the school are just remarkable and Adelaide is as friendly as any Canadian town. Accommodation ideas are well underway to assist in every budget level represented. In order to be identifiable and professional, the logo was discussed early on as well, as any marketing or branding would require it. We democratically hold every decision to a vote and come to the best decision via majority. The logo (above) was chosen at our second or third meeting, we then decided on a launch date in order to introduce the conference to the public. Social media policies were written (and re-written). E-mail accounts and web pages were created. A launch party was organized and will take place 29th July, 2013 at Flinders University. This blog is to correspond with that launch and also serves as a tactical move, as we can reach a wider audience and take our conference to the world. We have the where, who and what, now for the when. With it almost being August already (time flies when you’re organizing conferences), we have set the dates for NASC and are pleased to reveal them for your calendars:

Friday 11 April 2014 – Welcome BBQ

Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 April 2014 – Presentation dates

Sunday 13 April 2014 – Conference Dinner

Monday 14 April 2014 – Adelaide based Tour

We are well on our way to producing a truly spectacular conference event for both students and archaeology enthusiasts alike.  With exciting student presentations and inspiring speakers lined up, the conference will be a must for all archaeology students this coming April, especially those looking for a reason to visit beautiful Adelaide, South Australia. International attendees are more than welcome, in fact they are encouraged. If you are interested in presenting, speaking, or attending NASC, for a unique student-centric experience, please visit our Facebook page, our website, follow us on twitter or email us with any questions. We hope to see you next April 2014!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NASC2014

Website: TBA

Twitter: twitter.com/NASC2014

E-mail: nasc2014@gmail.com

Learning, Laughing and Living: An Archaeology Student Group from Down Under

In an average week, members of the Flinders Archaeological Society (ArchSoc) committee spend hours organising events and opportunities for the professional development and social interaction of archaeology students from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. Today is different, however, because we are taking time out for the exam period and end of semester assessments, and although we are not doing an incredible amount today, ArchSoc wanted to support this fantastic project nonetheless.

Semester one, 2012 has been a particularly busy semester for ArchSoc as we have organised an unprecedented number of events, and we have witnessed unprecedented high membership rates. For the most part, we assist the Department of Archaeology in hosting visiting archaeologists by making their time at Flinders an enjoyable experience. In many ways we are the life and energy of Flinders archaeology.

This semester began with a field trip. We sent a group of eight students to the Port Arthur Heritage Site in Tasmania to assist the local archaeologists in cleaning and cataloging artefacts from a recent excavation. The students that attended this trip had no previous archaeological experience and ArchSoc is proud to have given them this opportunity.

Site survey at Port Arthur

Next we ran a pub crawl. This event saw around one hundred archaeology students hitting the town in our bright blue t-shirts. How do you like the design? 🙂

ArchSoc conducted a site survey and a ‘Meet the Archaeologists! ‘ night to coincide with National Archaeology Week and ‘About Time: South Australia’s History Festival’. These events saw many members of the public actively engaging with archaeologists and students (out of over 500 events, ours were consistently listed as the first and second most popular throughout the festival!).

Our final event for semester one was a quiz night among the cells and gallows at the heritage listed Adelaide Gaol. The table of lecturers lost to a student table by only 0.5 points!!

Without a doubt, this semester has been fantastic and beneficial to Flinders archaeology students, not only in their professional development, but in social interactions as well (arguably the greatest aspect of this semester has been our new item of merchandise: Flinders ArchSocks!).

Here’s to another great semester! What have other archaeology student groups been up to this year?

Flinders Archaeological Society


Stronger Futures: An Archaeology of Contemporary Indigenous Graffiti in the Northern Territory, Australia

I am an archaeology Honours student with Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. For the last year I have been undertaking research into contemporary Indigenous graffiti in an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. I am due to submit my thesis next Monday.

I am taking time out of my research to post this blog for the Day of Archaeology. Today I have been sitting at my computer, writing about some of the issues I discuss in my thesis, so I will relay them to you here.

To begin, I just wanted to draw your attention to two recent events that are of significance to Australia and will soon find their place in Australian history:

  • Australian racehorse, Black Caviar won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at the Royal Ascot; and
  • the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2012 passed through the Australian Senate with bipartisan support and is now legislation.

Black Caviar’s recent win is significant because with 22 races undefeated (including Royal Ascot), it is the current living racehorse with the most undefeated wins (and it’s Australian).

The passing of the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2012 into legislation is significant because it extends the Howard government’s controversial Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (NTER) for a further ten years. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights condemned the NTER in 2010, claiming that it stigmatises already stigmatised communities.

Have a guess which of these stories featured more prominently in the Australian media?


Facebook and Thesis Research: A Students Life


By Cassandra Morris
Flinders University,
Master of Maritime Archaeology Candidate,
2011 Flinders University Archaeological Society (ArchSoc) Vice President

A student’s life is full of research. This week classes at university began again, forcing me to an early wake up, hours spent looking for a carpark and then finally getting on to campus only to discover that the information you went to pick up and work on is not there.

This week I have been working on promoting a facebook page. “Take the Plunge – Protect Australia’s Heritage” is a page created to promote the UNESCO 2001 Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage and its ratification by the Australian Government. A group of students (including myself) developed this page as a way to promote this controversial topic to the public, as well as to students and professionals. On the site is a downloadable letter that can be sent to our Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The letter lists beneficial points of ratifying the Convention in addition to pointing out that nearly all of the WW2 wrecks off the coast and in other countries are not protected. So far this page has spread like wildfire, appearing on many museum, university, dive groups and interested parties pages that it can. It has also made its way via facebook overseas. On Friday 29th the page reached 100 ‘likes’ and the letter viewed over 350 times! During the week we decided that we should take this opportunity to send letters to other members of parliament which are now in the writing stages. This page and its process are also being considered by another member of the group and myself for a poster, to be presented at the 2011 AIMA Conference.

Furthermore, my thesis for my Masters in Maritime Archaeology is in its research phase, and therefore, never far from my mind. Time spent making lists and reading previous theses and publications is not interesting to the outside observer. However, for my studies this past week’s efforts have been fruitful, and, at the same time, rather mind boggling. Ahead of me I can look forward to shuffling my way through museum policies and exhibitions. On my to do list: many phone calls and many more emails.

One of the highlights of my week was stumbling across a rather amusing book in the University bookshop. “The Archaeologists Book of Quotations” by K. Kris Hirst gave me a good laugh just flicking through the pages. Pride of place at the beginning of the blurb is a quote from Kent V. Flannery, “Hell, I don’t break the soil periodically to ‘reaffirm my status’. I do it because archaeology is still the most fun you can have with your pants on”. I think this sums up the feelings of most archaeologists, most likely due to all the time spent researching in libraries and at desks!

Permission to disturb

Today has been a day of tidying up on a number of jobs. My first task of the day was to pick up a total station and other surveying equipment that my company is hiring for a job next week. Then I headed out of town (Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia) to do a site recording and collection job. The day finished up in the office writing up reports (and this blog post), and packing up for next week’s travels.

The site that I needed to locate had been recorded years previously, and registered in the Northern Territory Heritage branch’s archaeological sites database. It was a background scatter of stone artefacts, located in a road reserve adjacent to a river where the government is building a bridge. The artefact scatter had been assessed as having low Aboriginal and archaeological significance, and a permit to disturb had been approved by the Heritage branch, under delegation from the Minister.

In the Northern Territory, Aboriginal places and objects are protected under the terms of the Heritage Conservation Act (1991), and any disturbance requires consent from the Minister under section 39(a) of the Act. The application process requires archaeologists to determine the Aboriginal and archaeological significance of the site, outline consultation with Traditional Owners that has occurred, and identify future curation of salvaged artefacts.

When I arrived at the site, I discovered that it had already been disturbed by heavy machinery, most likely in the course of road works to maintain the gravel road and river crossing where the bridge will be built. I was unable to locate any of the artefacts originally recorded. I recorded the condition of the site, and conducted a survey transect of the wider area to assess whether there was further background scatter in the vicinity. I didn’t find anything, so I came back to the office to write up the report.

Work in the tropical north of the Northern Territory is highly seasonal. Unlike most of Australia, we don’t have the standard seasons – we have a wet season (October to April) and a dry season (May to September). Most archaeological work happens between July and November. The work is mainly archaeological survey related to development, but can include salvage and research excavations. Highlights of the last two months include working in remote areas of Arnhemland, commuting to work by helicopter each day, and working with some of the most spectacular rock art in the world. We also found a stone quarry where we made a conservative estimate of 1 million + artefacts. It was huge!

I am currently balancing the busy work season with post-graduate study at Flinders University (Adelaide, South Australia). I find the archaeology department (and the screen & media department, where I also study) are very flexible and helpful when it comes to supporting students with other commitments. Before I finish up tonight, I should check the university’s online learning system so I can download this semester’s unit guides. No rest for the wicked…

Yours in the Top End,