Some of South Australia's history is bedded on the state's coast and inland waterways. This includes more than 70 shipwrecks that have ended their days in the 19 identified ships' graveyards. Other historic sites that are on land play an important role in the workings of the surroundings waters, such as lighthouses, jetties and whaling stations.
DEWNR's maritime heritage program encompasses such land and underwater sites. The program aims to identify, conserve, protect and provide policy advice on the built and maritime heritage of South Australia in line with the relevant legislation.
Underwater and land-based maritime heritage sites are identified through regional surveys and information from the community. The regional surveys identify shipwrecks in both Commonwealth and state waters and are conducted by DEWNR maritime archaeologists.
Typically, regional shipwreck surveys involve:
- historical research
- coordination and liaison with local communities
- site investigation and recording
- occasional artefact recovery
- recommendations on shipwrecks to be protected
- recommendations on management and interpretation.
During the inspection and assessment process, shipwreck sites are considered in terms of what conservation work may be required to assist in their longevity and their utilisation. This entails the identification and implementation of particular conservation treatments and, in particular cases, the recognition and production of conservation and management plans.
Stabilisation work is carried out on shipwreck sites to help conserve them. For example, at Victor Harbor the Solway, the wooden immigrant ship which brought some of the first German settlers to South Australia in 1837, has been totally covered with hundreds of sand bags, reducing the deteriorating effect of sand scouring and the damage done by teredo worms.
DEWNR has also created nine maritime heritage trails located throughout the state.