The classic 90s TV show Ship to Shore, while not featuring any abandoned vessels that I can remember, centred around the lives of a small community living on an island—a maritime community. It is exactly this type of community, albeit in the past, that abandoned watercraft can tell us about.
The ‘Rangitoto Island Abandoned Vessels and Baches Project’ is not the first to investigate a ships graveyard archaeologically. In fact, there are some seminal studies that should be cited (and you should get your hands on a copy if you want to learn more) in order to provide a background to the project and to see how it fits into the wider context of maritime archaeology.
The first of these is Ships’ Graveyards: Abandoned watercraft and the archaeological site formation process by Flinders University alumni Nathan Richards, published in 2008. Using Australian waters as a case study, he reveals the way in which we actively and unexpectedly create our own cultural heritage sites. The second is The Archaeology of Watercraft Abandonment, edited by Nathan Richards and Sami Kay Seeb, and published just last year. While this volume has a focus on the Americas, it does reveal the great diversity of geographical, historic, thematic and theoretical contexts of ship graveyard sites and deliberately abandoned vessels. In this book is a chapter on abandonment within a naval context which includes case studies from New Zealand (to read this chapter by another Flinders alumni, James Hunter, click here.
Therefore, the Rangitoto Island ships’ graveyard is just one amongst the common heritage and global themes that ship graveyard sites represent. Let’s hope they don’t all feature those annoyingly mischievous kids from Ship to Shore! /MF