New book investigates WA’s most important shipwrecks

Some of the earliest and most important shipwrecks in Western Australia’s history are the subject of a new book edited by The University of Western Australia’s Professor Alistair Paterson and UWA Honorary Doctorate recipient Jeremy Green.

The book Shipwrecks of the Roaring 40s, saw experts from across Australia and overseas join together in an Australian Research Council project to reveal new information about shipwreck sites that were first excavated in the 1970s and 1980s.

Professor Paterson, who leads a team of researchers at the WA Museum with Mr Green, said the work was conducted in various settings including museums, computer laboratories, archives and from fieldwork at selected sites on the coast and offshore islands of WA.

“The Batavia was wrecked on Morning Reef in the Abrolhos Islands off the coast of WA in 1629 with 300 people on board,” Professor Paterson said. “It is one of WA’s most significant shipwrecks because of the extraordinary story of its mutiny and the story of the Dutch East India Company in the Indian Ocean.

“The book provides new knowledge of the oldest European human remains in Australia.”

UWA Professor Alistair Paterson

“Five expeditions to Beacon Island and other locations related to the Batavia shipwreck saw the discovery and excavation of the graves of 12 victims from the wreck.

“The program of forensic work at UWA and in Europe to uncover the burials from Beacon Island is outlined in the book and provides new knowledge of the oldest European human remains in Australia.”

Professor Paterson said fieldwork, excavations and investigations at sites outlined in the book included the Zeewijk wrecked in 1727, the Rapid America-China trader wrecked in 1811, the Portuguese Correio da Azia wrecked in 1816 and a search for sites related to the Vergulde Draeck wrecked in 1656.

“The most compelling aspect of the book is having every aspect of various shipwrecks in one place,” he said.

Jeremy Green and Alistair Paterson

Image: Jeremy Green and Professor Alistair Paterson with the book Shipwrecks of the Roaring Forties.

As part of the launch of the book that details extraordinary parts of Australia’s history, co-editor Mr Green was appointed an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau.

The Order of Orange-Nassau was created in 1892 by two Acts of Dutch Parliament and is awarded to people who have provided outstanding services to the Netherlands.

Mr Green received his award in recognition of his career spanning accomplishments in maritime archaeology, including his instrumental role in establishing the field of maritime archaeology in Australia.

His numerous awards include the 2007 Rhys Jones Medal, the Keith Muckelroy Prize and his appointment as an Honorary Doctor of UWA. He is also an Adjunct Research Fellow in the UWA School of Social Sciences and a Fellow of the Academy of the Humanities.

Shipwrecks of the Roaring Forties is available for purchase on the UWA Publishing website.

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