A NEW volunteer committee has formed in an attempt to protect and preserve the historic Amazon shipwreck at Inverloch’s surf beach.
Five local amateur maritime archaeologists have come together to form the ‘Amazon 1863 Project,’ with the aim of working with Heritage Victoria to collect and conserve items that have detached from the wreck, and eventually, put them on public display in a museum-like facility in town.
The group was officially incorporated last Friday, November 8, following a vandalism incident at the wreck earlier in the week, in which a bronze alloy fastener appears to have been sawn off and taken.
Chairperson Trilby Parise said members had been in talks of establishing something formal to share information on the wreck and coordinate conservation efforts for several years, but the vandalism had spurred them into action.
“The vandalism really brought the panic that unless we do something, it’s not going to be around for much longer,” Trilby said.
“It’s degrading at an alarming rate, and what’s not being lost through erosion is being lost through pilfering and also through a lack of community awareness – you see people walking and climbing on it all the time because they don’t realise the damage they’re doing.”
The group would like to see items from the 150-year-old wreck put on display alongside other historical pieces including the dinosaur fossils found in the area, as a “showcase of Inverloch” and tourism drawcard, and say they have local MP Jordan Crugnale’s support in pushing for renovations to the existing Environment Centre to accommodate that.
But their first priority will be lobbying and fundraising to have artefacts currently in the care of Heritage Victoria, including a carved wooden ‘back board’ discovered during a dig by Flinders University students in 2018, put through the
process of museum conservation, rather than being returned to the sand.
“It’s standard practice to rebury items that wash up but this hasn’t been successful in the past – twice reburied items have been washed away and lost,” Trilby said.
“Conservation is a very expensive and lengthy process – it can take 10 to 15 years, but we’ve got to start now because, if we don’t, soon that piece of timber will be wet sawdust, and there will be nothing left to conserve or display.”
They’re also seeking to establish a register of all the items that have been collected from the wreck, and urge anyone with a piece in their possession to get in touch.
“We know there are pieces out there and we’re not trying to get anyone in trouble because many people have picked things up on the beach not knowing where they’ve come from,” Trilby said.
In the wake of the recent vandalism, Amazon 1863 Project members urge people not to interfere with the wreck – which Heritage Victoria has listed as one of the most significant in the state, out of 600 known shipwrecks – saying it should be respected in the same way a gravesite would be, and warning that anyone caught pilfering faces serious penalties under the Heritage Act, including fines and jail time.
For more information on the committee, including how you can help its conservation efforts, contact Karyn Bugeja on 0423 682 580 or via email at karyn.collins@bigpond.com.