Old shipwreck found in remote watery grave
A COMBINATION of cutting-edge technology and lucky weather has allowed shipwreck hunters to find a long-lost vessel sunken off the east coast of Cape York.
A team of Queensland researchers has laid claim to discovering the final resting place of the Martha Ridgway, near Raine Island.
The 621-tonne British passenger ship was lost more than 170 years ago on a voyage from New Zealand to Bombay, India.
The wreck site was found in December by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Department of Environment and Science, in 3m of exposed water in Wreck Bay, about 150km southwest of Raine Island.
Parts of the shipwreck were used to construct parts of the heritage-listed Raine Island Beacon, in 1844, but the vessel's final resting place was never officially recorded.
GBRMPA maritime archaeologist Peter Illidge said they were able to find the shipwreck using hi-tech equipment, including drones and a magnetometer, which detected the presence of ferrous metal on the seabed.
He said they used bronze and iron ballast material from the site to determine the size and approximate age of the vessel, allowing for a formal identification of the vessel.
However, he said it was the weather that played a key role in the discovery.
"It's right on the breaker edge on the outer bay area, and even when it's blowing 10 knots southeast it would be an unworkable site," he said.
"And we just had amazing weather.
"We had a very light north-westerly breeze, which allowed us to get onto the front of the reef. And that's what other people looking for wrecks around there didn't have - they had lousy weather."
The shipwreck has been added to the National Shipwreck Database, and the site will be protected under cultural heritage laws.
It is estimated there are nearly 800 recorded ship and plane wrecks resting at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, with very few discovered.
"I'd like to think we've chipped away, but it's a very long-term job," Mr Illidge said.