Wreck Bay Convict shipwreck heritage listed

Minister for Planning, Tony KellyThe historic shipwreck Hive in Wreck Bay is to be protected for future generations, after being listed on the State Heritage Register.

Minister for Planning, Tony Kelly, made the announcement during a visit to Wreck Bay in late March 2010, which gained its name following the loss of the Hive and another 10 subsequent shipwrecks.

“The remains of the Hive were located by the Heritage Branch in 1994 and is the only example of an early 1800’s convict prison ship wrecked in NSW and must therefore be protected,” the Minister said.

“It has considerable heritage significance as it meets all seven Heritage Council criteria for listing on the State Heritage Register.”

Hive Camp Wreck Bay NSWThe Hive was on its second voyage to Australia in 1835 when it ran aground with 250 Irish male prisoners, military guards of the 28th Regiment, ship’s crew, women, children and a cargo of coinage for the Government worth £10,000.

A crew member, the Boatswain, drowned while convicts and passengers were being transported from the foundering ship to shore.

The Hive site is unique in NSW as the only convict ship wrecked whilst transporting convicts to Sydney. The only two other convict transport shipwrecks in Australia are located in Tasmanian waters.

Wreck Bay NSWThe crew established a bush camp in the adjacent sand hills of Bherwerre Beach, in Wreck Bay, to await rescue while they stripped the vessel of anything they could salvage.

Mr Kelly said the events surrounding the loss of the Hive demonstrate early contact with local Aboriginal communities.

“The co-operation and support of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community members and other Aboriginal peoples in assisting the survivors and in passing word to distant Sydney is a key element of the site’s significance,” the Minister said.

“I am advised Federal Heritage Minister, Peter Garrett, has asked the Australian Heritage Council to add the Survivors’ Camp to its list of places to assess for possible inclusion on the Commonwealth Heritage List.

“The camp, which is on Commonwealth land, is a very important part of the Hive’s story and history, including the role the Aboriginal community played in helping to rescue the survivors of the wreck.”

Because the Hive is buried under sand, an important sonar survey of the shipwreck will be undertaken by maritime archaeologists from the Heritage Branch and the Commonwealth’s GeoScience Australia, to determine the amount of buried hull timbers remaining.

The archaeological remains are protected by the NSW Heritage Act and the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, and there are severe penalties for disturbing the remains.

The wreck survey will be conducted as part of the State Maritime Archaeology Program and the NSW component of the National Historic Shipwreck Program. 

The Hive wreck site is representative of the period of convict transportation to Australia, and the interaction between survivors of shipwrecks and Aborigines.

The ship, its cargo, crew, military personnel and convicts were part of the later period of highly organised convict transportation. It survives as a rare example of a vessel engaged in this trade. The hull is the main surviving artefact and has the potential to provide information about the construction and fitting of one of His Majesty’s prison ships during this period.

Images Courtesy of Heritage Branch, Planning NSW

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