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INPEX Ichthys LNG Project Nearshore Development Dredging

A team of archaeologists from Cosmos Archaeology was embedded within a dive company conducting heritage searches and lifting of targets in East Arm, Darwin Harbour, in preparation for an LNG gas plant being built by INPEX from 2011 to 2014. During the 2011-2013 phase of this project, approximately 1,077 seabed anomalies were inspected with 49 yielding cultural objects, amounting to a total of 6,897 artefacts. The majority of artefacts were associated with the WWII era, including PBY Catalina and Supermarine Spitfire components. Wreckage associated with the first Japanese air raid, 28 February 1942, was identified amongst material that was dumped towards the end or after the war. A total of 506 objects were relocated with the intention of keeping their fabric from degrading for as long as possible. They were wrapped, tagged and their burial locations accurately mapped in a grid system so that they can be retrieved in the future. Cosmos Archaeology created a database of all sites, inspections, artefacts and other information.

Between December 2012 and April 2015, Cosmos Archaeology conducted thirty-three monitoring inspections on the six World War II era Catalina’s wreck sites. Though the wrecks were beyond the dredging footprint, potential threats were identified in relation to dredging that could affect the integrity of these sites. Included in the monitoring programme was a baseline survey which recorded sand levels at established datums around the wrecks as well as taking video and still imagery when conditions allowed. The archaeologist’s observations of the condition of the wrecks was also an important component of the monitoring. This work involved Vicki Richards and Jon Carpenter from the Conservation Department at the Western Australian Museum.