Guide to information resources on shipwrecks corrosion and artefact conservation for HSC Chemistry students

This guide lists information resources which may assist students undertaking the HSC Chemistry Unit Shipwrecks, Corrosion and Conservation.

Historical developments in the design and construction of vessels

The resources listed below contain information on the use of metals in the design and construction of vessels.

Steel ship building
Fred M. Walker. London. Shire Publications Ltd, 1981. p. 3.
Contains a brief historical overview of metals used in shipbuilding including the use of steel.

"Shipbuilding" [article]
Oxford companion to ships and the sea
Oxford. Oxford University Press, 1988. pp 789-797.
Another good brief historical overview of ship construction and the materials used, from the earliest times to the present day.

Boatbuilding with steel
Gilbert C Klingel. Camden ME. International Marine Publishing Co, 1973.
The first two chapters look at steel as a shipbuilding material, discussing it's properties, advantages and disadvantages. Also contains a chapter on aluminium boat construction.

Introduction to naval architecture
Thomas C Gilmer and Bruce Johnson. Annapolis, Maryland. Naval Institute Press, 1982.
The chapter on properties of shipbuilding materials covers technical data such as comparative strength characteristics. It also provides an overview of materials used for construction of ship hulls.

"The iron hull: a brief history of iron shipbuilding" [Paper] (PDF, 747kb)
Mike McCarthy.
Iron ships and steam shipwrecks: papers from the First Australian Seminar on the Management of Iron Vessels and Steam Shipwrecks.
Fremantle, W.A: WA Maritime Museum, 1985. pp. 219-223.
A very good historical overview of the use of iron in shipbuilding. Outlines its properties and its advantages, from use in composite construction to iron hulls. Also examines why iron was replaced by steel.

"The contribution of alloy composition to the fate of foundered vessels"  [Paper]
Ian Donald MacLeod and Jeffrey Beng.
Tradition and innovation: Advances in conservation. International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Congress (2000: Melbourne). pp. 125-127.
Also available online.
Discusses the effect of the composition of copper alloys on the fate of sailing ships in Australian waters.

Corrosion of iron and steel ships

Metal corrosion in boats
Nigel Warren. London.  Adlard Coles, 1980.
An accessible look at the theory and prevention of marine corrosion. Covers many different types of hull materials (current and historical) including iron, steel and copper sheathing.

The boatowner's guide to corrosion: A complete reference for boatowners and marine professionals
Everett Collier. Camden ME. International Marine, 2000.

"The application of Corrosion Science to the Management of Maritime Archaeological Sites" (PDF, 810kb)
Ian D. MacLeod.
Bulletin of the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology. Vol. 13 no. 2 (1989) pp. 7-16.
A very good article showing how corrosion science helps maritime archaeologists assess the deterioration and archaeological potential of metal items found in wreck sites.

Corrosion Studies [Chapter]
Encyclopedia of underwater and maritime archaeology.
Edited by James P. Delgado. London. British Museum Publications, 1997. pp. 111-113.

Conservation treatment for artefacts recovered from shipwrecks

Conservation [Chapter 8] in Maritime archaeology: A technical handbook.
Jeremy Green. London. Academic Press, 1990. pp. 161-171.
A good overview of conservation considerations and treatments for shipwreck artefacts.

First aid for underwater finds
Wendy Robinson. London.  Archetype, 1998.
A good and not overly technical title on simple cleaning and stabilization techniques for artefacts recovered from wrecks.

Conservation of marine archaeological objects
Ed Colin Pesrson. London.  Butterworths, 1987.
This is the standard text on the subject. It is unfortunately very hard to find.

Conservation [Chapter]
Encyclopedia of underwater and maritime archaeology
Edited by James P. Delgado. London. British Museum Publications, 1997. pp.106-108.
Another good summary of techniques used for conservation of marine artefacts.

Methods of conserving archaeological material culture
Donny L. Hamilton.  1999. Conservation Files: ANTH 605, Conservation of Cultural Resources 1. Texas: Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University, Spring 1999.
Available online. This comprehensive web-based resource focuses on the conservation of material from underwater sites and was prepared as a laboratory manual for students at Texas A&M University.

Australian examples of the recovery and treatment of artefacts

Pandora: An archaeological perspective
Peter Gesner. Brisbane. Queensland Museum, 1991.
The Pandora website produced by the Queensland Museum includes information on the significance of the wrecks, as well as artefacts recovered and conservation techniques used.

The Western Australian Maritime Museum's Shipwreck Galleries site has an online guide to the Batavia with information on the shipwreck, its artefacts and their conservation.

Also on the Western Australian Maritime Museum site is conservator Richard Garcia's detailed and accessible account of the techniques used in the conservation of the engine from the Xantho shipwreck.

The National Parks & Wildlife, Tasmania website has a good overview of the wreck of the Sydney Cove. The wreck, which occurred in colonial times, has been the subject of a great deal of archaeological investigation.

"In situ conservation of cannon and anchors on shipwreck sites" [paper]
Ian Donald MacLeod. Archaeological conservation and it's consequences. 16th international Congress of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Copenhagen 25-30 August 1996. pp. 111-115.
An abstract of this paper is available online

"The Preservation of Iron Cannon after 200 Years under the Sea"
C. Pearson. Studies in Conservation, Vol. 17, No. 3 (August 1972), pp. 91-110
This article is available online through JSTOR, which can be accessed at public, school and university libraries.

"Conservation of waterlogged timbers from the Batavia 1629" (PDF, 22MB)
Ian D. MacLeod. Bulletin of the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology. Vol. 14 no. 2. 1990. pp. 1-8.

"The Vernon anchors and HMB Endeavour cannon: conservation of two important Australian maritime artefacts on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum. An information sheet  for curriculum unit Shipwrecks, Corrosion and Conservation" (PDF, 64kb)
Compiled by Richard Neville for the Australian National Maritime Museum. Sydney. ANMM, 2003.
Chemistry teacher Richard Neville has prepared this document as a background paper for students attending the Museum's Conservation Workshops. An excellent summary of two examples of the conservation treatments for shipwreck artefacts.

An overseas example

"The Conservation of Titanic Artefacts" (PDF, 798kb)
Stéphane Pennec, and Noёl Lacoudre and Montluçon Lacoudre.
Bulletin of the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology. Vol. 13, no. 2 (1989). pp. 23-26.

Ethics of the recovery of artefacts from shipwrecks

"A Matter of Ethics: Shipwrecks, Salvage, Archaeology and Museums" (PDF, 767kb)
Kieran Hosty.
Bulletin of the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology. Vol. 19, no. 1 (1995) pp. 33-36. 
A look at the ethical issues involved in shipwrecks and salvage. Examples include the Titanic as well as those from an Australian perspective.

Deep water sites; Professional ethics [Chapters]
Encyclopedia of underwater and maritime archaeology
Ed James P. Delgado. London. British Museum Publications, 1997. pp.327-32; 126-128.
These two entries from the encyclopedia look at ethics involved in recovery of material from wrecks; particularly deep-water wrecks including the Titanic.

General sources


  • Bulletin of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology
  • International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploration (IJNA)
  • National Geographic


An indexed bibliography of underwater archaeology and related topics
Compiled by John Sherwood Illsley. Oswestry, Shropshire. Anthony Nelson, 1996.

Internet resource guides

Professional associations

ANMM archaeology program

Find out more about the museum's archaeology program.

High school education packages

Working in conjunction with ANMM Education Officers, the museum's Conservation Section and the Maritime Archaeology Program we offer high school education packages consisting of talks, work sheets, reference material and archaeological artefacts for Year 11 and 12 students. The programs relate to the Ancient History syllabus and the HSC Chemistry syllabus. Find out more.

*Permission has been given by the authors to reproduce articles from the Bulletin of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology as PDFs for individual study purposes only.

Thanks to the ANMM Archaeological Program, Conservation Laboratory, the NSW Heritage Office and the Australian Institute of Maritime Archaeology for assistance in preparing this guide.

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