Finders keepers: an examination of the impact of diver interaction with shipwrecks as revealed by the 1993 amnesty collections

Jennifer Rodrigues

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] Despite the fact that much research has been carried out on private collecting behaviour and the theories that underpin this phenomenon, collecting behaviour relating to maritime or shipwreck sites including why and what divers collect has not been the focus of previous research. The culture surrounding wreck diving and souveniring in Australia prior to the enactment of the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 was such that there were no restrictions on what divers felt they could do to wrecks and what and how much material they removed. As a result, since the 1950s, most wrecks off Australia's coastline that were known to divers suffered varying degrees of impact from souveniring activities. These included the use of explosives, dredging, various tools (hack saw, crowbar, hammer and chisel) to dislodge or loosen material and the removal of complete and incomplete artefacts that were part of vessels' cargo, armament, superstructure or personal possession of those onboard. Consequently, a portion of Australia’s submerged archaeological evidence was lost into private hands, but what proportion, and what material, was unknown. In 1993, a nationwide amnesty was announced to encourage people to declare their historic shipwreck relics for documentation to enhance information of Australia's maritime heritage. This study analysed the largely unrecognised and under-utilised source of evidence from the amnesty collections, in conjunction with responses provided in a written survey sent to those who declared objects, to determine the degree of impact that collecting has had on Australian shipwrecks and to identify patterns in shipwreck collecting behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011


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