Wings beneath the sea
: the aviation archaeology of Catalina flying boats in Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory

  • Silvano Vittorio Jung

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    Darwin Harbour, in Australia's Northern Territory, is reported to have seven Catalina Flying Boats that were lost during and shortly after World War Two. Five have been found, but their identification remains a puzzle. This thesis tests if a combined historical and archaeological study can identify the wreck sites and link history to otherwise amorphous assemblages on the harbour floor. This is the first study in Australia of an emergining science called aviation archaeology, which challenges previous attitudes and practices regarding aircraft wreck sites.

    The United States Navy lost three Catalinas on 19 February 1942. The RAAF are reported to have lost four throughout 1945. The US Navy Catalinas were, hence, early types, whereas the RAAF had lost more advanced machines. This thesis examines the attributes of the different types of Catalinas that were lost and determines if this is a viable method for identifying the wreck sites.

    The historical record relating to the Darwin Harbour Catalina losses is compiled and analysed for clues in the identification of the archaeological material found on the wreck sites today. This searching, prior to undertaking wreck inspections, has uncovered new information regarding the fate of one RAAF Catalinas that forces archaeologists and historians to re-evaluate the events that occurred in Darwin Harbour during World War Two.

    In this thesis the assemblages on the harbour floor are linked to their individual histories. This has implications for their management as important places in the Northern Territory. The wreck sites represent the only tangible remains of the recent, but now forgotten Flying Boat history of the Northern Territory. They are an important archaeological resource and their condition suggests that they are also rare.

    The results of this thesis, furthermore, suggests how the wreck sites can be managed and argues why they should be recognised as heritage places under the Northern Territory Heritage Conservation Act 1991 (NTG 1991). The ultimate outcome ofthis thesis, however, is that this research will act as a starting point for the closure to the Catalina puzzle, by identifying the places where important events happened and in particular, where two RAAF fatalities occurred. This indicates that the place (wreck site) were death occurs is equally important to relatives as where the bodies are buried.
    Date of Award2001
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorIan Walters (Supervisor)

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