To begin the search for a wreck, we start with research ashore. Hours spent poring over historical records prior to going out on the water can narrow down the search area by establishing the circumstances associated with the loss of a vessel.
What makes a good Target?
Key items for selecting a good target to search for
- vessels that had survivors able to provide reliable descriptions of the sinking location
- larger vessels, which provide a bigger target
- more recent wrecks, for which there is usually more detailed information
- vessels with a large amount of iron or steel (hull or propulsion systems) to provide a magnetic target
- vessels likely to be in less than 120 metres of water - within the range that can be more easily dived
Research begins with a review of the almanac-style books describing ships sunk along the NSW or Australian Coast. From the list of vessels not yet found, we select likely targets with the above criteria in mind.
Once a ship is selected, research moves to primary sources. These include contemporary newspaper reports, Marine Court of Enquiry minutes, Marine Underwriter Association insurance records, and original registration papers. From these, and possibly other sources, we obtain details of the type and construction of the vessel (including motor size and hull style – both important factors in identifying a wreck) and develop a better understanding of the size of the area we would need to search to determine whether a search seems practical. If so, we figure out a “box” on a chart, to define our proposed search area.
What also narrows down the search area?
- knowledge of where known wrecks are located
- information about known magnetic anomalies or other side scan contacts
- not looking where others have already looked
After a search area has been defined, a number of things can be done to refine the search, including knowing what is already “down there”. As part of this project we have put together an extensive GPS waypoint list of approximately 270 known NSW shipwreck sites and 126 known scuttled vessels.
This allows side scan surveys to be done on wrecks previously found within a search area. Information we seek in relation to wrecks yet to be discovered includes:
- reported sites where trawlers have had their nets caught up, or have trawled up wreck debris
- reported WWII “Non Sub Sonar Contacts”
- reported magnetic anomalies
- charts marked with wreck sites, but no matching discovered wreck
- known offshore fishing spots, as these are often associated with shipwreck sites
Out on the large expanse of ocean, knowing where others have looked and found nothing is important, as such knowledge avoids hours and fuel being wasted. Any information on previous searches is always appreciated.
Ongoing Research Assistance & Data Refinement or Data Review
We welcome assistance to help research potential targets. This can consist of refining the locations of known shipwrecks or potential targets, or details of areas that have been extensively surveyed. We are also happy to review anyone's raw data, including old magnetic tape data, as shipwrecks can be overlooked in the data gathering and processing stage if they were not the prime concern of the exercise.