DEEP below the ocean, shipwreck hunters are using cutting-edge 3D mapping technology to find sunken wrecks.
More than 1000 shipwrecks lie entombed along the state’s coast — the victims of raging gales, careless captains and, in some cases, foul play.
From Moonlight Head to Cape Otway there are wrecks of more than 600 ships with more than 350 yet to be found.
But a group of shipwreck hunters is planning on uncovering these wrecks without getting a foot wet.
By using geographic information system (GIS) technology from Esri Australia, shipwreck enthusiasts can create digital 3D reconstructions of the ocean floor.
The ShipShapeSearchers team is trying the technology on a test wreck in Victoria, the location of which remains a secret, and also at a shipwreck graveyard at Port Adelaide in South Australia.
“We have access to hulks of varying construction periods, types and materials, and in different environmental conditions, all on the one site,” ShipShapeSearchers archaeologist Alex Moss said.
“This provides an ideal laboratory for us to test our mapping technology and explore which processing and interpretation techniques work best for the detection of wrecks,” he said.
“Once we’ve established this, we hope to demonstrate technology that can be used to search for wrecks right along the Australian coast over the coming years.”
Mr Moss said the 3D maps have multiple layers that can be ‘peeled back’ to reveal any ships that may lie beneath.
“We start with data sourced from non-archaeological sources, including industry, government and research organisations, in particular those that have been conducted using remote sensing techniques,” he said.
“The remote sensing techniques include sonar, satellite surveys and LiDAR, which uses light beams fired from a plane to measure ocean depth and terrain up to 30 metres below the water’s surface.
“GIS technology enables us to combine and process all of this information into a 3D model of the ocean floor that shows in intricate detail the different elements, whether it’s vegetation, rocks or sand, that it is comprised of.
“Researchers can use the technology to fly in and out of the virtual model and peel back each of the element layers to ‘bring out’ the wrecks beneath.”
Esri Australia remote sensing and imagery expert Dr Dipak Paudyal said ShipShapeSearchers’ progressive use of 3D and GIS technologies would have ramifications beyond archaeology.
“As an island nation with a strong nautical history, it’s important that researchers, historians and archaeologists use modern technology to gain a clearer view of where we’ve come from,” Mr Paudyal said yesterday.
“This approach is now also used on dry land as well, with many of the nation’s emergency services agencies using mapping technologies to virtually remove obstructions caused by disasters to survey the situation underneath and safely take action.
“And by layering new data over old, responders can gain a clear understanding of how an area affected by a natural disaster changes over the duration of a crisis.”