Flinders University archaeologists mount mission to identify mystery log on Kangaroo Island

RIG president Tony Klieve and American River harbour master Ian King discuss the newly-discovered log back in 2016. Photo RIG

RIG president Tony Klieve and American River harbour master Ian King discuss the newly-discovered log back in 2016. Photo RIG

A team of Flinders University archaeologists will mount a mission to Kangaroo Island this month to shed light on a mysterious log.

The log was unearthed in 2016 during construction at American River and a recent ground-penetrating radar survey identified additional logs, indicating a possible shipyard.

The unearthed log is located next to the Rebuild Independence Group shed, where volunteers are building a replica of the 45-foot, top-sail schooner built by American sealers at that location in 1803.

The step in the log which suggests it was used for boat construction on the American River beach. Photo RIG

The step in the log which suggests it was used for boat construction on the American River beach. Photo RIG

Group secretary David Cowans said the large log was discovered buried in the beach at American River by the builders of the retaining wall outside the RIG boathouse and Deck café.

The log is about 60cm in diameter and 4.8 metres long and lies at right angles to the shore, sloping towards the waterline.

"We know it is a type of log that was used for early wooden boat building, and this log was clearly cut down by axe," Mr Cowans said.

"But here the mystery thickens: it has a step, or notch, cut at exactly mid-length on the top surface, in which a flat stone had been embedded with tar.

"We asked: Who cut this step? And - are there other logs like this?"

In 2018, Dr Ian Moffat of Flinders University undertook a ground-penetrating radar survey of the beach area.

He also conducted a survey of the Reeves Point cemetery while on the Island, finding multiple graves.

Mr Cowans said Dr Moffat detected radar signals indicating several other shapes, possibly logs, parallel to the first at regular intervals.

"Was this a shipbuilding 'yard' at some stage? How long ago? Could it even date back to the 19th century?" he said.

To answer all these questions a team from Flinders University will be in American River from Tuesday, July 21 to Friday, July 24 to dig at the site and uncover its mysteries.

RIG members thank SeaLink for providing discounted travel for the Flinders Uni team, consisting of one staff member and five postgraduate students, led by Professor Wendy van Duivenvoorde of the Department of Maritime Archaeology History, Archaeology and Geography.

"And so, Flinders Returns! Who knows what will be discovered?"

The RIG boathouse will be open all of that week and visitors are welcome.

This story The log that's got everybody talking: archaeologists mount mission to solve mystery first appeared on The Islander.