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In the early 1950s, I encountered the work of Frenchman Jacques Cousteau, who was my introduction to the delights of skin diving and the world beneath the waves. At that time, only a few Australians were interested, and goggles, masks and snorkels could not be purchased. So we had to make our own. For goggles, this involved making a plaster cast of one’s head, and using it as a mould for layers of vulcanising rubber in which was embedded a glass panel. The snorkel, that curved tube which allowed you to breathe with your face under water was relatively simple. Rubber flippers, which enabled you to swim twice as far and twice as fast, were coming into play.
We were water-babies, children of the surf, and lived at that fertile intersection between ocean and shore. We learned to swim and surf early in our lives, before the time of girls, and we were at home in rough and breaking seas. We were all entranced with the newly revealed delights of life under water. We became aware of marine archaeology. Shallow-water wrecks off the beaches of the Mediterranean began to be found and explored as thoroughly as any site on dry land. Amphoras full of ancient olive oil were being retrieved as well as other relics. Immersion in water protected relics from the effects of oxidisation. And we began to be aware of the significance of shipwreck sites and the wrecks themselves.
Marine archaeology is now a discipline within archaeology as a whole and is taught in universities. It examines human interaction with the sea, lakes and rivers through the study of associated physical remains, be they vessels, shore facilities, port-related structures, cargoes, human remains and submerged landscapes. The study of submerged aircraft lost in lakes, rivers or in the sea is an example from the historical, industrial or modern era. We all know, of course, about the Titanic and its devastating sinking on the eve of World War One, but little about the numerous shipwrecks on Australian shores. These have slowly been located and dived upon. We have also deliberately sunk vessels to create artificial reefs and habitat for fish and other marine creatures.
Around Tasmania there are over 1,000 shipwrecks, only a small proportion of which have been located. Shipwrecks in Tasmanian waters are legally protected. Members of the public are welcome to visit shipwrecks provided they do not collect artefacts or otherwise disturb or damage the sites. We are also beginning to locate, map and explore the many wrecks and sunk vessels from the Second World War. Wreck-diving has become a major tourist activity. So far, so good. In addition to their possible archaeological value, some of these are regarded as war graves and should be treated with appropriate respect. Think of HMAS Sydney, sunk off the coast of Western Australia in 1942, with no survivors and only recently relocated. Our capacity to dive and work undJasmine Smith-Browne holds forth on matters close to her heartersea on an industrial scale has meant that the wrecks are valuable to some just as scrap. Think of the amount of brass in even a small sea-going vessel. So wrecks are now being illegally broken up where they lie and their structure hauled to the surface and recycled.
Then there is the question of treasure, a much-disputed issue which is exacerbated by technological advances in the shape of remote-controlled submersible robots, which have transformed our ability to find and possibly plunder wrecks and their sometime cargo. They are capable of picking up anything from a 2-tonne cannon to a single coin. The finding and photographing of the Titanic and the Bismarck marked the beginning of a quantum leap in underwater technology. It is an immutable rule that technology advances at ten times the pace of the law, and we are racing to catch up legally, let alone police the integrity of valuable wrecks. Commercial archeology companies argue that the image of the seabed as pristine is a false one. Trawling and industrial waste, they argue, is obliterating valuable wrecks before their archeological value can be ascertained, and that it was a race against time to simply explore and catalogue them.
A US magistrate has recently made a decision which may affect the ownership of treasure from over 3,000 known potential treasure-bearing wrecks. He ruled that an American marine archaeology company should return 500,000 gold coins, weighing 17 tonnes, from an Atlantic wreck. She is claimed to be the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a Spanish frigate sunk by the Royal Navy in 1804, and belonging to the Spanish Government. The magistrate ruled that the gold coins should be returned to Spain, as indeed they were. The company is appealing on the grounds that they were merely ‘salvaging’ the wreck. A number of other companies are watching closely. Apart from treasure, the market for retrieved artefacts is flourishing. Objects from the Titanic are particularly sought after. Don’t ask me why.
John Fleming II
500 words... Jasmine Smith-Browne holds forth on matters close to her heart
Do you say plant or plarnt?
Having gypsy blood coursing through my veins and a never ending thirst for travel around our wonderful country, I have had to adjust to different languages. You read right! Even though we share mostly the same Aussie dialect, there are many things that are said quite differently from state to state. It is believed local people of each area have somehow manipulated the English language since our convict times. It is what makes each state so unique, but beware the intrepid traveller getting caught out asking for the wrong thing.
I have had the pleasure of being able to live in most states at one time or another so became adept at changing words to suit. The first that comes to mind is potato cakes. Here in Tasmania and Victoria we all know a potato cake is a deep fried slice of potato but in Western Australia and South Australia they are called a potato fritter and in NSW they are called scallops. You may wonder how a slice of potato can be called a scallop but a potato is cut and scalloped before frying so hence the name (for New South Welshmen anyhow). A Sydney friend who came to stay with us for a few weeks last summer, asked for four scallops. Not a good thing if you hate sea scallops but an honest mistake was made.
If you want to find a small shop that has a mixture of items on hand but is not quite a supermarket, in SA they are called delis, in Victoria, a milk bar and corner shops in other states. In NZ they have the extra confusing name “dairy”. Also in NZ there is luncheon sausage for a simple sandwich with tomato sauce. In NSW they call it devon, Victoria, straz (or strasburg), WA has polony and in the USA it is called bologna or baloney. I suggest if you don’t know what to call it then use your pointer finger. Saves time and embarrassment.
Queensland calls peanut butter, peanut paste. Why? Well, cows cannot produce peanuts! Sounds plausible doesn’t it? One of my favourites is what to call swimwear from state to state. Queensland call them togs which derives from the latin word toga while bathers are the preferred word for Vic and WA. NSW calls them swimmers except in Sydney where they are known as cozzies. Are you completely confused yet? Try going to South Australia where they call them the old fashioned name of swimming costumes.
Everyone knows what a bogan is but depending on where you live, they too, can be called very different things. Here in Tas we call them chiggers but in QLD they are called bevans, Vic has scozzas, Sydney has westies and in the ACT they are named booners.
If it is a hot day and you want to buy an icypole and you happen to be in Victoria or NSW, don’t forget to ask for an iceblock. Also if you are buying children a fruit box drink, they are called poppers in QLD and primas in Victoria. A simple kebab for lunch can be so confusing anywhere else. They also have the names doner kebab and yiros. If you go to a fairground you might buy a pluto pup, dippy dog or a dagwood dog depending on where you are, and if you are going to a footy match you might take along an esky or cooler for your beer. In NZ they call them chiller boxes. All very different names but exactly the same item. Depending where you attended school you would drink water out of a drinking fountain in Melbourne but just a little out of the city you will use a bubbler. The same applies in NSW and Queensland. Also did you know that if a child has a uniform free day they can either be known as a free dress, casual clothes day or a mufti day.
One of the most confusing names for a very popular item are those for fizzy drinks or soft drinks. Both WA and SA call them cool drinks, and for some silly reason they are called cordial here in Tas. Cordial is found in the supermarket as a flavour to add to plain old tap water. Why does a soda drink have the same name?
I guess having different sayings in each state makes us more individual and it is an entertaining part of travel in our diverse culture to keep up with all the colourful names. Lucky we can point, smile, use hand gestures etc to allow us to be understood. The simple Australian has a rainbow of colours in our language that is to be admired and loved everywhere.
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