Shipwrecks on the menu for dinner

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian

Shipwreck buffs are invited to a special dinner in Geraldton later this month commemorating 25 years of achievement in maritime archaeology.

The keynote speaker pioneered industrial-era shipwreck archaeology when his team raised the Xantho from Port Gregory and transported it to Fremantle’s Shipwreck Museum in 1985.

“Without doubt it is the WA Museum’s greatest conservation feat,” Dr Michael “Mac” McCarthy said.

Dr McCarthy said the Xantho, used by entrepreneur Charles Broadhurst, was the best-known iron steamship in the archaeological and conservation world for five reasons.

Firstly it was the first time a shipwreck’s engine had been taken from the sea bed, dismantled and conserved to the point where it could be turned over by hand.

“Conservators from all over the world joined the museum’s team under Ian Mcleod, John Carpenter and Vicki Richards in learning their techniques and methods,” Dr McCarthy said.

Secondly the study proved to the archaeological world the examination of “modern” wrecks could add new archaeological information that was not in plans and newspaper accounts.

“It pioneered the study of those iron, steel, and steam wrecks,” Dr McCarthy said.

On the third level, the study of the strange ship led to the study of Charles Broadhurst, who was the forerunner of reckless high-flying entrepreneurs like Laurie Connell, Alan Bond and Claude de Bernales.

“It was probably one of the first anthropologically based excavations of its sort,” Dr McCarthy said. “Xantho is recognised by museum experts as one of the truly anthropologically based maritime archaeology projects, as a pointer to the future of many people including his wife and suffragette daughter.”

Fourthly, the WA Museum team pioneered “public” conservation.

“The Xantho was rebuilt in the public gallery from 1990 to now,” Dr McCarthy said.

“For over 20 years people were able to see the engine develop and interact with staff in the gallery.”

Finally the project enhanced indigenous archaeological knowledge as two pieces of rock art were interpreted as Xantho representations.

Limited tickets to the May 31 dinner are available from Batavia Coast Maritime Heritage Association via or 0418 928 750. Bookings close May 24.

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