19th Century shipwrecks found during search for #MH370 | Western Australian Museum
Two shipwrecks discovered 2,300km off the coast of Western Australia during the initial search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been identified as 19th Century merchant sailing vessels carrying cargoes of coal.
The sites provide tangible archaeological evidence for use of the historic Roaring 40s trade route for ships between Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, India, Southeast Asia, China and Japan.
The Western Australian Museum was asked by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to analyse sonar and video data taken in international waters by the search vessels Fugro Equator and Havilah Harmony in May and December 2015. The work was undertaken by Dr Ross Anderson, Curator of Maritime Archaeology at the WA Museum.
“Both wrecks were found at depths between 3,700 and 3,900 metres, roughly 36km apart. We used a combination of all of the data supplied by ATSB, historical research and maritime archaeological analyses to determine both wrecks were in fact 19th Century merchant sailing ships – one wooden and one iron – both carrying coal,” Dr Anderson said.
“Historical research into all 19th Century merchant ships that disappeared in international waters is incomplete so we cannot conclusively determine identity of the individual ships,” Dr Anderson said. “However, we can narrow the possibilities to some prime candidates based on available information from predominantly British shipping sources.
“For the wooden ship the brig W. Gordon and the barque Magdala_ are two possible candidates; for the iron ship the barques_ Kooringa (1894), Lake Ontario (1897) and West Ridge (1883) are possible, with the West Ridge best fitting the evidence.”