Jindabyne is a year round holiday destination in the Snowy Mountains. Hiking, canoeing or mountain bike riding in summer or as a base for skiing in winter, Jindabyne has a lot going for it. The countryside around it is stunning and the first views of the town across the lake as you approach from East Jindabyne, awesome!
So when I mention shipwrecks talking about a place located at an altitude of 915m and approximately 130 km as the crow flies from the ocean is the obvious starting point.
The mention of maritime archaeology either invokes the names of some of the pioneers in the field (George F. Bass, Robert F. Marx, R.D. Ballard, Alexander McKee) or perhaps the Hollywood portrayals (Matthew McConaughey in Sahara or perhaps Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson in Fools Gold).
UNESCO estimates that there are approximately 3 million shipwrecks undiscovered around the world. In fact if you ask most people what is Maritime Archaeology you will get the answer shipwrecks first. Then you will probably get answers like maritime infrastructure (wharves/lighthouses), maybe crashed planes. Some people might add things like shipwreck survivor camps, Aboriginal sites such as fishtraps. The way these terms are defined is a topic of ongoing discussion in the field of maritime archaeology and you could check out the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology or Nautical Archaeology Society for some more in-depth discussion.
I am not a trained maritime archaeologist but I have picked up a lot of what I know through working with a good friend of mine Sarah Ward. Sarah has 15 years’ experience in the field, has worked in over 30 countries, runs a successful consultancy and I consider her to be my mentor. If you really want to understand maritime archaeology, what it is and where it can take you, Sarah’s blog Indiana Sarah, is a great place to start.
When you look at the NSW State Heritage Register there are dozens of listings that have maritime links including: lighthouses and associated infrastructure (Green Cape Maritime Precinct, Norah Head Lightstation Precinct); shipwrecks (Green Cape Maritime Precinct, Hive Shipwreck, the M24 Japanese Midget Submarine Wreck Site); shipwreck cemeteries (Green Cape Maritime Precinct); and Aboriginal sites (Brewarrina Aboriginal Fishtraps/Baiame’s Nghunnhu). These show the wide range of sites that under the term maritime.
But how does the town of Jindabyne fall into this category? The Jindabyne that we see today is actually the second town to hold that name. The original Jindabyne sits beneath the placid waters of Lake Jindabyne, at a depth of up to 40m metres. The earliest settlement in the Jindabyne area began with the advance of graziers in the 1820s. The goldrush of the 1860s saw an influx of settlers and the development of the town. Over the course of a century it grew into a thriving mountains community. Everything was going fine until the idea arose for the Snowy Mountains Scheme. This was the beginning of the end for Old Jindabyne. In the 1940s plans were developed to build a massive dam at Jindabyne. This would however mean the complete flooding of the township of Jindabyne. A new town was planned on the high ground adjacent to the town.
In 1964 the new township officially opened. An entire new town was constructed, people relocated. New shops, houses, churches, schools all constructed to replace a town to be abandoned and submerged. Over the course of the next three years people continued to live in Old Jindabyne until the last residents finally left in 1967. Have a look at this series of clips from 1965 to get a perspective of the event from the time.
Imagine the scenes. The elderly who had lived in Jindabyne for decades forced to move to a new and unfamiliar town. Perhaps for the children it was a great adventure, but for their mothers and fathers the loss of livelihoods created uncertainty, fear. It is easy to understand their concerns; forced to move because a government hundreds of kilometres away makes a decision for the greater good. Easy to make decision when it is not your town, your home that is to be destroyed. These sorts of decisions are still being made today. Badgerys’s Creek Airport and the West Connex are just two examples. These projects are forcing people from their homes. How history judges them will be interesting.
However, Old Jindabyne has a new life. Today it is one of Australia’s premier inland dive sites. Yes that’s right; you can scuba dive in places other than the ocean. The remains of the old township are there for all to see. Houses, roads, churches, cars, water tanks, all the familiar trappings of country life can still be seen beneath the waters. Now I haven’t dived it myself, it is a goal I am working towards. But what remains are the places where people lived, what they did and how they did it before the town was submerged. Check out some of the videos from others have made the dive (love the soundtrack on this one).
So next time you happen to be going past a dam spare a thought for what may have been lost to create that dam. Hume Dam in Victoria and Happy Valley Reservoir in South Australia have each submerged towns (I’ll leave it to you to find out which ones if you’re interested). In Australia and overseas, each new dam will impact the lives of those unfortunate enough to be in the area to be inundated. Homes lost, people relocated, lives uprooted (1.3 million people were relocated during the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China).
So I don’t leave you on too much of a bummer this article from the Daily Mail shows some cool images of submerged churches from around the world; everything I just said notwithstanding.
Coming up next on Heritage Gest….
Just because I like a Sea Shanty