High-tech hunt for famed wreck

By Jared Lynch
Updated November 7 2012 - 1:43pm, first published July 14 2009 - 10:56am
The Mahogany Ship could be a Portuguese caravel.
The Mahogany Ship could be a Portuguese caravel.

UNIVERSITY students from Melbourne hope to find the fabled Mahogany Ship in dunes west of Warrnambool.Last February Rob Simpson, who had searched for the legendary vessel for 20 years, used satellite technology to map what he believed was the ship's location.The Melbourne man drilled three-and-a-half metres down south of Tower Hill and struck something solid.RMIT geophysics professor James MacNae said a couple of million dollars had been spent in developing equipment his team would use, but finding the ship was still "a long shot"."I'm not crossing my fingers yet . . . if we found something it would be exciting," he said."We transmit an electric current horizontally beneath the surface and it detects any abnormalities."If we map something that is the right size and shape of a ship, we will be happy."Professor MacNae began developing the technology in 1973. He initially used it to detect plastic landmines but the equipment's imagery produced too many objects."Because the landmines are so small it found so many little things . . . that it was impossible to find the landmines."Lately the equipment proved useful in archaeological digs. It was used in Rome last year and Professor MacNae said it could find buried walls, trenches and graves.If the students found the Mahogany Ship and it proved to be a 16th century Portuguese caravel as had been speculated, it could rewrite Australia's history books.It would predate accepted British discovery of Australia and potentially fuel a massive tourist boom for Warrnambool.The team planned to visit the city in coming months.

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