Culture and heritage

Maritime heritage

What's new

There's always something new happening with maritime heritage around the State. To help you keep up with what's going on, keep an eye out here for any news of forthcoming events and new releases of the Office of Environment and Heritage publications, posters and pamphlets on maritime heritage.

HMAS Australia shipwreck report now available online

On 12 April 1924, the former HMAS Australia, the largest warship in the Australian fleet wastowed 50km east of Sydney Heads and scuttled with full military honours. Eulogies were read, strong naval men were wet eyed and public outrage flared at the loss of the first flagship of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). This highly significant vessel was Australia's only battlecruiser, was the grandmother/ centrepiece of the Royal Australian Naval Fleet, and single handedly prevented German aggression in the South Pacific during World War I. The wreck lay undisturbed for many years until its accidental discovery in 400 m of water in 1990. However, due to its extreme depth, a survey was not undertaken of the site until the RAN (at the request of the Heritage Branch) directed a suitable deep water ROV unit (US CURV) to undertake the first photographic survey of the site in 2007. A report of the survey is now available online. It presents a potted history of this vessel which led to its sinking, along with the survey results and analyses which have documented key diagnostic elements of this, Australia's largest protected Historic Shipwreck. A summary information sheet is also available.

Discover NSW maritime heritage leaflets

Discover NSW Maritime Heritage leaflets (DiscoverNSWMaritimeHeritage.pdf, 1.5MB) out now!

The waters of New South Wales contain an immense wealth of heritage sites and relics. With an estimated 1800 shipwrecks, along almost 1800 km of coastline, NSW has amongst the largest accumulation of shipwreck sites of any State or Territory in Australia.

This leaflet introduces you to these sites and stories. In order to relate to our maritime cultural heritage and understand how it has shaped our society today, we first need to understand the significance, form and function of the traces of maritime activity left to us in the archaeological record.

The Office of Environment and Heritage implements the NSW Maritime Archaeology Program and has a team of professional Maritime Archaeologists who provide advice, promote standards, and physically manage the State's Historic Shipwreck resource. The Maritime Team aims to enhance and make more widely available knowledge about our maritime culture in whatever form it takes.

The leaflet (DiscoverNSWMaritimeHeritage.pdf, 1.5MB) is a wonderful celebration of Historic Shipwrecks and maritime archaeology, and would not have been possible without the support of Damien Siviero and the other divers who generously provided images.

A copy can be mailed to you from the Department of Planning Information Centre, 22-33 Bridge Street, SYDNEY. Contact them on 02 9228 6333.

New historic shipwreck poster

The Historic Shipwreck Poster (shipwreckposter.pdf, 5MB) features Heritage Branch surveys at the Wingecarribbee River at Berrima searching for the remains of the former German internment camp and associated relics dating to the First World War (1914-1919).

The camp area was added to the State Heritage Register in 2010 and includes the river and riverbank where the internees built a number of recreational huts, jetties and foreshore infrastructure such as diving boards, pathways, bridges, and gardens. Approximately 50canoes were built during their stay and used for pleasure on the river and for regattas, displays and competions and they were highly decorated to represented model ships, fanciful boat types, a submarine and even a Zeppelin airship!  Many were sunk by the internees when they left the camp in 1919. One canoe, of the dug out type, was located within the riverbank in 1978 and recovered for display in the Berrima Museum and Historical Society building. The Heritage Branch has undertaken a range of  remote sidescan sonar imaging surveys of the river with the support of the Royal Autsralina Navy and comercial survey companies but has not detected potential submerged canoe targets. Recent diving inspections in December 2012 suggest that any canoe remains are either buried by silt or bank erosion, or have been washed further downstream in times of high flood.

The poster is a wonderful celebration of our rich maritime and riverine heritage in New South Wales.

If you would like to receive a hard copy, please contact the Heritage Branch, Office of Environmnet and Heritage via telephone: 02 9873 8500 and we will send one out to you.

Wreck spotters program relaunched

Wreck spotters program relaunched

Maritime archaeology is alive and well in NSW. Over the past 10 years, existing NSW Wreck Spotter’s have been active with research projects across the State and in the notification of historic shipwreck sites from Barrenjoey Headland to Seal Rocks, Evans Head and Jervis Bay, to name a few. The work is invaluable and greatly assists the identification, assessment and interpretation of the State’s varied maritime archaeological resource.

As a result, the Office of Environment and Heritage has taken the decision to relaunch the Wreck Spotters Program, and is inviting people with a recognised interest in the preservation of historic shipwrecks to join this exciting initiative.

The program aims to establish an expanded body of shipwreck specialists to provide first-hand advice on local discoveries and the condition of visited sites. As such we would like to invite you to become involved in the Program as a voluntary Wreck Spotter.

Here you will find Introducing Wreck Spotters (NSWWreckSpottersIntro.pdf, 167KB), a document which outlines the aims, objectives and benefits of becoming involved in the Program.

If this is of interest to you, please send an email to Brad Duncan, confirming the same, and enclosing your landline and address details. Please also include a mobile number, and importantly an email address. If you go on to become a Wreck Spotter, the email address will be used to disseminate information about the Program, and will be our primary method of contact.

Once your participation is confirmed, you will receive a copy of our ‘Guidance for Wreck Spotters’, a ‘Wreck Spotters Agreement’ (to be signed and returned) and a current ‘Wreck Spotters Resource Kit’.

We understand your time is valuable and look forward to your assistance in reporting and recording local discoveries, and in developing your strong local network of contacts to further promote the sound management of our unique underwater heritage.

If you have any questions about the Wreck Spotters Program, please do not hesitate to contact the Heritage Branch.

Page last updated: 26 February 2013