Trawling the seas for shipwrecks

Peter Harvey

By Sarah Hudson - Weekly Times

When it comes to grand, horrific chapters in history, shipwrecks are chiselled on the communal imagination. Damsels in distress, violent storms, lost treasures and heroism are the stuff of shipwreck romance and tragedy.

Sleuthing out these disasters along this state's coastline is Peter Harvey, underwater archaeologist and maritime manager at Heritage Victoria.

"Victoria's shipwrecks have everything from a slave trader near Mallacoota to opium runners, international sailing vessels, a World War II cargo ship, and a steam cargo carrier off Apollo Bay," says Peter, who is one of a team of three maritime archeologists overseeing our shores.

"Just about every sort of shipping endeavour."

All, that is, except treasure.

Peter says of the 700-odd known ships that were wrecked along the Victorian coast from around 1850 to 1890, none of the wrecks has booty or riches.

"Despite what some people believe, those kinds of ships didn't travel through here.

"Instead they were mainly cargo, trading and passenger ships.

"If we find any kind of artefacts it is usually ceramics or wooden items - anything you'd find in a house really. "The great treasure for us is information about our culture and heritage."

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Peter Harvey Heritage Victoria World War II cargo ship Apollo Bay