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Struggle to Save Murray River Heritage Dry Dock in Mannum

Randell Dry Dock, Mannum

Struggle to Save Heritage Dry Dock in Mannum

Media Release : September 17, 2010

Rising water levels in the Murray are good news for the river 's health, but for Flinders University archaeologists working to conserve a unique 19th century dry dock at Mannum, they create an added sense of urgency.

Excavations in December (2009) last year yielded some of the structural secrets of the disused dry dock, which was used to repair and refit the paddle steamers that plied the Murray 's busy trade up until the 1920s.

Staff and volunteers from the Mannum Dock Museum and a team of postgraduate and undergraduate students from Flinders will again work on the site with an architect and conservationist from September 21 to 27. Their aim is to complete a full picture of the dock's structure and the environment in which it sits.

Originally built as a floating structure for use on Lake Alexandrina, the Randell Dry Dock was towed to Mannum and installed onshore in 1876 by Captain William Richard Randell founding father of Mannum. The installation of the Dock at Mannum greatly extended a small existing ship building and repair facility that had been developed by Captain Randell.

It is estimated that over half of all vessels in use on the river system used the Dock at some time and its associated workshops consequently had a significant role in employing local shipwrights and tradesmen and provided the core required to maintain the local ship building industry.

It is thought that only one other comparable structure existed in Albany, Western Australia, from the same time period. Along with examples from Bermuda and Chile, the Mannum Dock is the only one that has survived.

Assessing possible threats to the dock 's integrity from rising water levels will be part of the project.

Flinders archaeologist Britt Burton said that there was an urgent need to support and stabilise the dock 's timbers.

'At the current rate of deterioration, there is a window of less than ten years in which to take major preservative action, ' she said.

'Beyond this time the dock will probably be too rotten to save. The Save Our Dry Dock group has researched options to help slow down or halt the increasing rate of deterioration. '

In the short term, construction of a roof over the dock is being considered.

'These investigations by the Flinders University team are essential to assist in determining the right course of action to save our Dry Dock ', said Mannum Dock Museum Chairman, Rob Bowring.

Rob further said, 'The Randell Dry Dock is an integral piece of Mannum 's maritime history and is one of iconic attractions for our township and the Mannum Dock Museum. Our 'Save our Dry Dock' committee is working tirelessly to implement a conservation plan to ensure Mannum does not lose this vital link to the days of steam and wooden paddle wheelers and boats on the Murray '.

The upcoming project will combine surveys and the digging of a two-metre pit in order to expose and document the structures of the dock. The group 's main aim is to produce a complete, detailed technical drawing of the dock, and activities will also include filming a short documentary to record the archaeological activities and overall project.

Members of the public are encouraged to come and see the excavation in action. The Randell Dry Dock is located at the river end of Mannum 's main street, next to the ferry crossing at the Mannum Dock Museum.

For further information on the Mannum Dry Dock, visit or contact Jenny Callander at the Mannum Dock Museum on 08 8569 2733.


Britt Burton
0427 865 602

Deb Alexander
0414 857 738

Dry dock dig with Flinders Uni : 'Corowa' in Randell Dry Dock


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