SA wreck comes back to life through 3D underwater archaeology breakthrough

  Last updated April 15, 2019 at 11:22 am

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A multi-beam image of submerged vessel Crowie, resting in the Murray River at Morgan, South Australia.


The rapid development of maritime archaeology through the increasing use of 3D modelling techniques and digital approaches is catalogued in a new book that places Flinders University’s Maritime Archaeology program at the centre of this exciting field.


The UNESCO UNITWIN Network for Underwater Archaeology has been chaired by Flinders University for the past three years – and the release of this book shows just how far 3D advances in this field have been made in a relatively short time.


The new book – 3D Recording and Interpretation for Maritime Archaeology (Editors: John McCarthy, Jonathan Benjamin, Trevor Winton and Wendy van Duivenvoorde) – is an international peer-reviewed volume published by Springer Books, Coastal Research Library.


Released with a special event at Flinders University Victoria Square on Wednesday April 3, the book contains an important example of two different 3D technologies being used effectively in South Australia – to produce an accurate model of the barge Crowie, which is submerged and partially buried in the Murray River at Morgan.


The 3D reconstruction created from ERT (Electrical Resistivity Tomography) data provided an image of the current condition of the buried portion of the wreck, while a model created from historic research combined with sidescan sonar and multibeam data provided a visually appealing 3D representation of how an undamaged vessel of this type would look.


This proved that ERT is an especially effective geophysical method for maritime archaeology, particularly in shallow and turbid water.


Dr Ian Moffat, who led the Crowie study, said “This study was the first time that ERT was used to map a shipwreck site anywhere in the world.  I’m delighted that Flinders University can be the global leader in this exciting area of research and particularly glad that such an innovative study is based on fieldwork undertaken in South Australia.”


3D replications of the submerged vessel Crowie.


The book that this case study is contained in was inspired by the UNESCO UNITWIN Network for Underwater Archaeology International Workshop that was held at Flinders University in November 2016, the book includes work presented at the workshop dedicated to 3D recording and interpretation for maritime archaeology.


It also features practical and theoretical contributions about photogrammetric recording, laser scanning, marine geophysical 3D survey techniques, virtual reality, 3D modelling and reconstruction, data integration and Geographic Information Systems.


The Honor Frost Foundation, an international maritime archaeology supporter, provided about $12,000 to ensure the eBook version is Open Access and free to download. Additional support for the publication of this book was provided by Flinders University College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (also a sponsor of the 2016 workshop) and Wessex Archaeology (UK).


The books editors from Flinders University say its purpose is to provide a clear overview of state-of-the-art technology at work in maritime archaeology and to identify the future direction of emerging spatial or 3-D technologies for survey, analysis and dissemination.


Local implementation of the advanced 3D survey techniques has been performed on the submerged Star of Greece historic shipwreck off Port Willunga, which the Flinders University Maritime Archaeology team has recorded in order to produce a photo-realistic 3D model and a high definition, detailed site plan.




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