Wessex Archaeology conducted a geophysical survey of the wreck of the vessel South Australian in July 2015. The survey was undertaken on behalf of the Ilfracombe and North Devon Sub-Aqua Club with the main objective of producing a site plan to inform further diving investigations at the site.
The South Australian, built in 1868, was a clipper ship that traded between the UK and Australia and was heavily involved in the emigrant trade. In February 1889 she set sail from Cardiff, laden with rails and fish plates for railway customers, but foundered in severe weather in the Bristol Channel. The wreck was discovered by members of the Ilfracombe and North Devon Sub-Aqua Club in the late 1980s and positively identified as the South Australian in 2005.
The wreck lies approximately three miles northeast of the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel. A sidescan sonar survey was conducted over the site on 23rd July 2015. The data were processed and interpreted along with multibeam bathymetry data obtained from the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office. Further interpretation of features was provided by the divers familiar with the wreck site. Georeferenced images of the geophysical datasets and the positions of the interpreted features were used to produce the site plan.
The interpreted features consist of the rail stack, adjacent scour, debris field and 13 individual items of debris within the debris field. The identities of the majority of the features are not known to the divers and will provide targets for further diving investigations.