car park

Archaeologists dig down to find shipwrecks

Archaeologists uncover the hull of the whaler in Bunbury

By Nikki Wilson-Smith - ABC

For shipwreck archaeologists, it's a dream come true...a surprise find in a car park in the coastal town of Bunbury. 

Five metres below the surface, a team has found historic hidden treasure and experts say there's no site quite like it in the world. 

Ross Anderson, who's the head marine archaeologist at the West Australian museum, is leading the excavation and the team has found the remains of three shipwrecks.

"We're just hitting solid material all through here and it's wooden so that's a pretty good sign that there is a shipwreck here," he said.

The area around Bunbury is known as the shipwreck coast and there have been rumours through the years of American whaling ships wrecked near the beach and smothered by sand.

John Cross, 66, was just 16-years -old when he worked at a sand mine at the site. 

In 1961 he was on night shift when he struck wood.

"I'd hit something, it wasn't a rock and it wasn't steel it was, well in the process of working through the evening it turned out that it was wood and it was oregon wood and oregon wood is American," he said. 

Fifty years later he's back working on the same site as a member of an archaeological dig to confirm his suspicions that the car park is a shipwreck graveyard.

"Best job I've been on in my life, actually I've had some tough jobs in my time you know and this is about the best I've had so I'm sort of whistling dixie you know !

Ross Anderson says it turns out the hunch about the wood was right.

"This would have gone down the side of the hull so it's a piece of deck that's fallen over on its side and there's barnacles along that piece of metal so this would have been in the intertidal zone at one stage," he said. 

Mr Anderson says there is no other site quite like it in the world.

"With three of them we think in the same location, it's absolutely unique," he said. 

"It's that unique combination of circumstances where you get material and wrecks and everything and then it gets sealed up by modern development and coastline changes and that's resulted in sealing this as almost a shipwreck park."

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