Daily Archives: October 28, 2016

‘Swallowed by the Sea: The story of Australia’s shipwrecks’ by Graeme Henderson


2016, 203 plus notes

Every edition of each of the three newspapers published in Port Phillip during the early years of the 1840s had a prominently displayed ‘Shipping’ feature. It would list the ships that had arrived  and departed from UK and Australian ports  and their important passengers, then there would be a long list of the progress of various ships along the main shipping routes heading to or from Australia.  I’ve only been on a ship on the open seas once, but I can remember thinking as I looked at the empty waves around us, that it was as if we were the only ship on the ocean. Of course we weren’t: there were ships criss-crossing out of our sight and  modern communications ensured that we were easily trackable and findable.  Ship journeys in earlier times were nowhere near as trackable or findable, as Graeme Henderson’s book shows,  with several of the wrecks he describes still undiscovered.  But, as some of his chapters suggest, even in what seemed to be an ’empty’ sea, mariners’ knowledge of the sea lanes and ports meant that they knew where to go for help, even though it may be thousands of kilometres away.

Graeme Henderson is a maritime archaeologist and was director of the West Australian Maritime Museum for 13 years. He discovered his first shipwreck at the age of sixteen, sparking a life-long passion.  In this book he examines shipwrecks spanning 1622 right through to 2010 on both the west and east coasts of the Australian mainland.  Chapters 1-11 deal with shipwrecks during the mid 19th century when, of course, Australia was completely dependent on shipping for communication and travel.  Two of the  final three chapters deal with shipping losses in World War II (loss of the Sydney and the bombing of Darwin in 1942) and the final chapter brings us right up to the loss of the asylum boat, SIEV 221 which brought visible footage of a modern, but yet somehow timeless, shipwreck right  into our lounge rooms. Continue reading