Unlocking the history of a sleepy seaside town

Master of Maritime Archaeology student Peta Straiton is studying the history of Normanville jetty.
Master of Maritime Archaeology student Peta Straiton is studying the history of Normanville jetty.

A Flinders University researcher is on a quest to dig out the history of Normanville, shedding new light on the heritage and significance of the coastal South Australian town.

As part of her masters degree in maritime archaeology, Peta Straiton is this week conducting field work in Normanville, about 80 kilometres south of Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula, to search for the remains of two jetties that were built there in the 1850s.

Using waterproof cameras, metal detectors and ground penetrating radar to identify possible jetty remnants, the study aims to determine if the archaeological record matches historical documents and public memory about what happened to the port.

“Historical documents show the two jetties were destroyed in severe storms,” Ms Straiton, who is based in the School of Humanities, said.

“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information about the exact location of the jetties, or what happened to the port when they were washed away,” she said.

“According to public memory, the jetty that’s there today was much longer when it was built in the 1900s but the history books are quite vague about what actually happened.”

By searching for physical remnants of the jetties, Ms Straiton said she hopes to verify the historical records, increase community knowledge of Normanville and determine the overall significance of the port.

“If we found pieces of the two original jetties we could, for example, gain insights into the construction materials that were available in the 1850s.

“Or we might find an anchor in our scuba surveys that hasn’t been documented in the history books.

“Whatever we find will enable an assessment of the significance of the beach to be made.”

Interpretative signage may be installed based on the results of the fieldwork, she said, potentially bolstering heritage tourism in the town.

“Members of the community know a bit about the region’s past but the history of Normanville beach hasn’t really been looked at in this way before.

“It’s an untold story that I’m hoping to tell.”

Ms Straiton has created a blog to document her study and keep the community updated on the progress of the project. To read the blog, click here.

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