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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

6 April 2005

Funds to help identify elusive WA shipwreck


The final identification of one of Australia's most elusive shipwrecks will go ahead thanks to funding announced by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, in Fremantle today.

"What is believed to be the earliest Portuguese shipwreck off the Australian coast, that of the sailing ship Correio da Azia, was discovered last year after lying undisturbed by humans for 188 years," Senator Campbell said.

"It was only in 1988 that researchers learnt that this vessel had been wrecked on a Western Australian reef as it travelled from Lisbon to Macau in 1816.

"The mystery of its whereabouts sparked a 16-year quest to find its remains. This finally ended last year when the results of a magnetic survey of the area tipped off researchers from the Western Australian Maritime Museum about its possible location.

"Museum archaeologists later visited the site and believe it to be the wreck of the Correio da Azia. Although they recovered some objects from the wreck, more are needed to finally confirm its identity.

"Funding of $22,728 through the Australian Government's Historic Shipwrecks Programme will enable the Western Australian Maritime Museum to conduct this fascinating research. Divers will recover coins and artefacts from the site.

"It is hoped that the recovered coins will be dated, and if they are no later that 1816, then this will help to support the theory that the wreck is that of the Correio da Azia."

Senator Campell said this research was one of 40 shipwreck-related projects being funded through the Historic Shipwrecks Programme, nine of which are being coordinated by the WA Maritime Museum with a total funding of $65,640.

"Western Australia has a massive coastline which stretches from the Timor Sea through the Indian Ocean and down to the Southern Ocean," Senator Campbell said.

"It is no surprise that more than 1400 shipwrecks have been recorded along this often remote stretch of coastline. Unfortunately, only about 160 of these have been found.

"Every shipwreck is a watery timecapsule with a story waiting to be told.

"The Historic Shipwrecks Programme supports investigation, research and interpretation so that we can see into our past and discover more about our history particularly in areas such as trade, defence and migration."

Further information about Australia's Historic Shipwrecks Programme can be found at www.deh.gov.au/heritage/shipwrecks/index.html.

Media Contact:
Senator Campbell's office: Renae Stoikos (02) 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434

Commonwealth of Australia