Tracking environmental and historical footprints on Clarence: Comparative XRD analysis of clay-rich sediment samples from a 19th century wreck site in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia

Dublin Core


Tracking environmental and historical footprints on Clarence: Comparative XRD analysis of clay-rich sediment samples from a 19th century wreck site in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia


Little is known about shipbuilding in Australia in the early to mid 19th century. Under the Australian Research Council (ARC) funded Australian Historic Shipwreck Preservation Project (AHSPP) (, underwater excavations were carried out in April- May 2012 on the historic trading schooner Clarence, wrecked in shallow waters at Port Phillip Bay, Victoria in September 1850. During excavations, cores collected by lead investigator Peter Veth and principle investigator Vicki Richards were found to contain clay-rich sediment, thought to be ballast. This discovery stimulated investigations of the micro-sedimentary environments and taphonomy associated with the vessel, especially fine-grain sediment supply to the wreck and current and tidal influences on the stability of sediments lodged in and around the site. In order to address these questions, sediment samples were collected from the wreck, seabed and adjacent shorelines. Clay fractions were analysed at the Australian National University (ANU) using X-Ray Diffraction (XRD). Key objectives were to compare mineral signatures in the 'ballast' from clay-rich sources on the seabed and coastal foreshores possibly incorporated as the vessel foundered. Results successfully differentiate a) individual samples by seabed location and b) “ballast” samples in the wreck structure from sampled points around the wreck. The findings suggest that fine sediment within the Clarence shipwreck is likely to be clay ballast, emplaced at some point during the schooner's working life. The results also inform questions regarding the longer-term conservation of Clarence and similar wrecks located in Australian and Southeast Asian shallow-water settings.


Adele Zubrzycka
Anthony J. Barham
Ulrike Troitzsch, in Van Tilburg, H., Tripati, S., Walker Vadillo, V., Fahy, B., and Kimura, J. (eds.)





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