Thesis abstract ‘The History and Archaeology of the Garden Island Ships’ Graveyard, North Arm of the Port River, Port Adelaide, South Australia’

04th January 2014

Nathan Richards

BA(Hons), Archaeology, School of Cultural Studies, Flinders University, Adelaide, October 1997

Investigations into a ship graveyard in Port Adelaide have been carried out since the late 1970s, but only relatively recently from a perspective both archaeological and historical. One of the problems in the past in gaining a more accurate portrayal of the significance of the abandonment ground has been an inability to combine relevant and historiographic principles with archaeological approaches. Apparently used between 1909 and 1945, the site, a mangrove and samphire dominated section of island, has provided a rare insight into the practices which dictated the disposal of a considerable number of ships, while shedding light on the circumstances which lead to the decision that a ship is of no further value.

While the progressive adoption of diesel powered vessels appears to have been a major reason for abandonment, other factors such as the winding down of government-run dredging and deepening operations in the Port have also played a role. Changes in state government legislation, attitudes towards the use of particular sea routes and perceived threats to navigation have also been factors that determined shifts in the bureaucratic method of deposition and the actual number of ships deposited throughout the early twentieth century.

This thesis discusses the results of ongoing archaeological fieldwork and historical research into local newspapers, registry documents and government records. Of particular interest has been how the histories of individual ships contributed to the creation of the graveyard. This research has shown that while such graveyards are not rare occurrences around the globe, their definitions on temporal and spatial levels are born from actions that arise from issues which, although being inextricably linked with changes in technology and world economy, were guided by practices dictated by a set of locally conceived and particularly unique culturally defined practices. This thesis suggests that the investigations of such sites are useful from many different perspectives, especially as the study of the practices of peoples linked on a global scale can tell us about occurrences in world economy, technological evolution and technological diffusion. It can also begin to tell us to what extent locally conceived and apparently behaviourally insular and unique practices (due to perceptions of law, economy, technology and environment) persist in light of other cultural exchanges.

Richards, N.
Thesis abstract 'The History and Archaeology of the Garden Island Ships' Graveyard, North Arm of the Port River, Port Adelaide, South Australia'
December 1998
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Thesis Abstracts
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