Crash barriers to save shipwreck
By Michael Hopkin
Scientists have enlisted an unlikely ally in their bid to protect one of WA’s most historically important shipwrecks.
They are aiming to adapt road crash barriers into a makeshift corral that will protect the James Matthews from the shifting tides.
WA Museum expert Vicki Richards said the plan was to place the plastic barriers in a ring around the wreck, which is lying in Cockburn Sound near Woodman Point, allowing it to be buried in sand to prevent decay. The homemade sandbox would stop sediment being stripped away and exposing the boat’s delicate hull.
Maintaining a layer of sediment on top of shipwrecks offered the best hope of preserving the historical treasures in their original resting places, Ms Richards said.
“The wood can be exposed and eaten by marine worms. We were losing this historic shipwreck,” she said.
The James Matthews, a former slave ship turned merchant vessel, sank in 1841. It was excavated in the 1970s but its hull remains on the seabed 100m from the shore.