Site survey unearths hidden gems

01:08, May 06 2013
Matt Schmidt
HISTORIC DISCOVERY: Historic Places Trust area archaeologist Dr Matthew Schmidt with one of the propellers left at Price's Inlet by Norwegian whalers.

A historic Stewart Island whalers' station is one step closer to protection after archaeologists uncovered hidden gems while completing a survey of the site.

The station in Price's Inlet, on the shore of Paterson Inlet, was established in 1926 as a repair site for Norwegian whaling operations in the Ross Sea, but regenerated bush reclaimed most of the site after the whalers left in 1932.

Trust area archaeologist Matt Schmidt said the site was not yet protected by law, but the archaeological survey was a step towards proving it needed to be.

"Really, it's all about showing people this is an important site."

A team of five, including Southland museum and art gallery resident archaeologist David Dudfield, spent five days diving in the bay and searching the bush for what remained of the station earlier this year.

Scattered along the beach and throughout the bush, the team found pulley and winch bases, propellers and spare parts from whaling ships.


The remains of a workshop, a kitchen, a tin hut where the diver stayed, the manager's hut and foundations of the crew's quarters were also located, Dr Schmidt said.

Underwater, divers had tracked a 76-metre slipway and the remains of the Othello ship, which the whalers had transported from Australia to use as a wharf.

The ship was abandoned and left to sink when the station was closed.

However, the survey had shown the ship was still intact underwater, with the rudder attached.

The team had also unearthed 19th century evidence such as glass bottles which had been left by settlers before the whalers arrived, he said.

Dr Schmidt said the next step was for the team to sort the information they had found so the site, including the underwater remains, could be registered by the trust.

Mr Dudfield said being able to compare the actual site with old photographs of the station had been "mind-blowing".

He had tried scuba diving during the survey to get a closer look at the sunken wharf boat.

"The rig was so close to the surface.

"It was a fantastic sight above the wreck of the Othello."

The Southland Times