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SHIPWRECKS

THE FOAM

In February 1893, the schooner Foam carrying 84 South Sea Islanders back to the Solomon Islands was wrecked on Myrmidon Reef near Townsville in Queensland. There were no survivors. Ninety years later in May 1982, the wreck was discovered in 6 metres of water. The Foam was one of over 100 vessels that operated in the late 19th century transporting approximately 60,000 South Sea Islanders to and from Queensland to work as labourers in establishing the sugar cane industry. Items like the armbands in the photo, have been found on the wreck and are helping archaeologists discover more about these vessels and the lives of those on board.

Learn more about the South Sea Islanders at http://www.abc.net.au/pacificstories/

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SECRETS IN MYSTERY BAY

Mystery Bay south of Narooma earned its name from a shipwreck event. In October 1880 Lamont Young, a surveyor with the Mines Department and his four companions were sailing down the south coast of New South Wales. Young and his party were on a government expedition to investigate new reports of extensive discoveries of gold. Their boat was wrecked in Mystery Bay. The story goes that a bullet was found lodged in the side of the boat, vomit was detected across the bow and the crew's belongings were still on board. The five occupants, however, were nowhere to be found. Stories circulated of drownings or even murder. Adding to the intrigue, the crewmen have never been found and there is now no trace of the boat. It is thought that the boat was probably recovered at the time. Mystery Bay still holds its secrets.

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PRESIDENT COOLIDGE

The President Coolidge is regarded as one of the greatest wreck dives in the world. It was originally a luxury cruise ship that was converted to a troop carrier during World World 2. It sank after hitting a 'friendly' mine when entering the harbour on Espiritu Santo Island, today known as Vanuatu. The captain ran the ship aground so that those on board could escape to land. When the ship eventually sank, it slid backwards so that its stern now lies in 70 metres of water, while the bow is in 16 - 18 metres. Not only an amazing wreck dive, the Coolidge has formed a huge artificial reef, and is home to a wide variety of marine life such as lion fish, trigger fish, nudibranch and the wreck's resident green moray eel, Jessie.

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LA PEROUSE

The experienced seaman and famous French explorer La Perouse sent a message on 10 March 1788 from Australia saying that he expected to be back in France by December. After his departure from Botany Bay, La Perouse and his crew were never seen again. It has now been confirmed that La Perouse's two frigates were shipwrecked during a storm off the coast of the Solomon Islands, which lie to the northeast of Australia. Recently an expedition launched by the Solomon Islands Association and backed by the French government identified a shipwreck off the island of Vanikoro as that of La Boussole, one of La Perouse's ships.

If La Perouse had successfully returned to France he could have claimed the continent of Australia for France, rewriting the colonial history of Australia and the South Pacific.

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MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY

One of the most famous sea stories of all time is the story of the mutiny on the HMS Bounty. It has been the subject of five films (the most recent with Mel Gibson) and even a musical with David Essex.

Captained by William Bligh, the Bounty had a crew of 43 volunteer men and was sailing under commission for the British Government to collect breadfruit plants from Tahiti. The British hoped to establish breadfruit as a cheap food source for their plantation slaves in the West Indies. The Bounty set sail from Spithead, England on 23 December 1787 for an arduous 10 month voyage. When the ship finally arrived in Tahiti it was for a long stay of six months. The crew lived on the island collecting breadfruit and mixing with the Tahitian people. On 4 April 1789 the Bounty set sail with over 1000 breadfruit plants on board. Three weeks later when the ship reached the island of Tofua (near the Tongan islands) mutiny broke out. The cause of the mutiny is controversial but Fletcher Christian, sailing as the first mate, led the revolt and forced Captain Bligh and the eighteen men who remained loyal to him into an open boat.

Using a map, compass, sextant, quadrant and navigational tables, Bligh showed incredible navigational skill in steering his small boat over 5800km to Batavia now known as Jakarta. From here, he found his way back to England via various merchant ships.

Fletcher Christian and his supporters returned to Tahiti on HMS Bounty where they collected six Tahitian men and twelve Tahitian women. They set sail looking for a new South Pacific island home and found Pitcairn Island on 15 January 1790. HMS Bounty was stripped and burnt shortly after arriving on Pitcairn, to avoid detection from passing vessels. While the Tahitians and crew settled and had families, frictions soon developed, resulting in murder within the small colony. The remaining survivors (one HMS Bounty crewmember, 10 Tahitian women and 23 children) were 'discovered' by an American whaling ship in 1808, then again by the British in 1814. The British were so impressed by their simple lifestyle that it was decided not to report the remaining HMS Bounty crewmember. Trade was established between Pitcairn Island and passing ships. The descendents of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives still live on Pitcairn Island.

Captain Bligh went on to become the fourth governor of the colony of New South Wales in 1806.

Learn more about the Bounty at http://www.questacon.edu.au/html/assets/pdf/HMS_Bounty_s_Journey.pdf

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PANDORA

HMS Pandora was the Royal Navy warship sent to the South Pacific to capture the men who had mutinied the HMS Bounty (see shipwreck fact number 5). On the South Pacific voyage, the Pandora was heavily laden for the mission with a special armament of 20 six-pounder carriage guns and 4 eighteen-pounder carronades. The Pandora first encountered some of the mutineers at Matavai Bay, Tahiti, in March 1791. The rest of the mutineers, nine in all, including Fletcher Christian, had already left Tahiti for Pitcairn Island on the Bounty. The captain of the Pandora was not able to locate them.

On 29 August 1791, the Pandora was homeward bound, via the Torres Strait, when the boat struck a part of the Great Barrier Reef and sank. Thirty-one of the Pandora's crew and four of the captured mutineers drowned in the shipwreck. Unlike the majority of historic ships that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, the Pandora did not break up on the reef. Refloated by her crew, she later sank, settling into the seabed virtually intact. Covered by sand, the bulk of the artifacts on board remained more or less undisturbed in their original setting inside the ship. The Pandora's treasures have shed new light on 18th century European culture and maritime exploration in the Pacific. Today it is widely regarded as one of the most significant wrecks in the Southern Hemisphere.

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TRUK LAGOON

Truk (now called Chuuk) was a large Imperial Japanese Navy base operating during World War 2 in a beautiful region in Micronesia.

The American forces saw this base as a major threat and in February 1944 they began Operation Hailstone, an intense aerial bombing campaign that continued in various forms until the war's end. More than 50 Japanese naval and merchant ships were sunk in Truk Lagoon, along with up to 100 aircraft. Many are still intact, having been protected by the surrounding barrier reef. Today Truk Lagoon has the greatest concentration of shipwrecks in the world.

The submerged military remains attract colourful and diverse marine life, some of it unique to the area.

Learn more about Truk Lagoon at http://www.chuukhistoric.org/index.htm

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HMAS CANBERRA

On 9 August 1942 the Royal Australian Navy heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra was lost in action in the Solomon Islands, some 1800 kilometres off the North Queensland coast. Crippled in a short but ferocious engagement with a force of Japanese cruisers in the early hours of the morning, the Canberra remained afloat until the next morning, which enabled survivors to be picked up by American destroyers. All the crew survived. The Canberra was one of the first ships sunk in what would eventually be named 'Ironbottom Sound.' Dozens of ships and planes were sunk there during the Battle of Guadalcanal (7 August 1942 - 9 February 1943), one of the most important battles of World War 2.

Learn more about the HMAS Canberra at http://www.ww2australia.gov.au/waratsea/ironbottom.html
http://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/remembering1942/canberra/index.htm

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PT-109

'Mosquito boats' like PT-109 were small American patrol boats operating in the Solomon Islands during World War 2. With crews of 12 to 14, the PTs' primary goal in the Solomon Islands was to hinder delivery of troops and supplies to Japanese bases, missions usually carried out under cover of darkness. Lieutenant John F. Kennedy (later United States President) commanded PT- 109.

At roughly 2 a.m. on 2 August 1943, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri loomed out of a pitch-black night. Despite the PT-109's three 1500-horsepower engines, it couldn't get out of the way in time, and the destroyer ran right through it, immediately sinking the stern and killing two of the crew. Kennedy led the survivors, clinging to the wreckage of the boat, to safety on the deserted Plum Pudding Island. The episode was made into a 1963 movie called PT- 109, starring Cliff Robertson and the island was renamed Kennedy Island. The wreck of the PT-109 was discovered in May 2002 by a National Geographic expedition. However, under current U.S. Navy policy, the wreckage site is a gravesite and may not be disturbed.

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THE ORIGINAL RAINBOW WARRIOR

As a protest against French nuclear testing, the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was intending to lead a flotilla of yachts to the French Polynesian atoll of Moruroa. French Polynesia is a French colonial territory and the French were concerned to prevent the Greenpeace plans of protest. The Rainbow Warrior was sunk by the French foreign intelligence agency (DGSE) in Auckland Harbour, New Zealand, on 10 July 1985. Of the twelve people on board, one, photographer Fernando Pereira, drowned when he attempted to retrieve his equipment.

After the bombing, the Rainbow Warrior was given a traditional Maori burial and final resting place at Matauri Bay, in New Zealand's Cavalli Islands. It has now become a living reef and popular dive destination. The local Maori community maintains its kaitaki (conservation). In a few short years, the Rainbow Warrior has become an integral part of the environment it helped protect. Over a decade after the end of its nuclear test program, France has offered to lead a European push to save Pacific island states from the impact of global warming.

Learn more about the Rainbow Warrior at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/about/history/the-bombing-of-the-rainbow-war

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GENERAL GRANT

The Auckland Islands are part of New Zealand's territories. Lying approximately 320 kilometres south of New Zealand, toward the Antarctic between latitude 50.30' and 50.50' South and longitude 166' and 166.20' East, this bleak and inhospitable set of islands is the scene of as many as ten shipwrecks. The seas are so violent that very little survives of these wrecks. What does survive is generally buried beneath tons of rocks that are rolled about during the southerly storms.

A search has been on in this area since 1866 for the wreck of the General Grant, an American clipper ship. The General Grant was loaded with cargo of wool and skins, 2576 ounces of gold, passengers fresh from the Australian gold fields returning to England and nine tons of zinc spelter that some people believe was actually gold. The General Grant left Melbourne on 4 May 1866 on a voyage to London and has still not been found.

Learn more about the General Grant at http://www.maanz.wellington.net.nz/projects/gengrant.html

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