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Dr. Silvano Jung
Aviation Archeology & PBY Research

Jung has been involved with aviation archeology and PBY research with Northern Territory University. Also, landmark legislation to protect wreck sites, and advocate for their protection as archaeological sites. In an interview with Pacific Wrecks, he shares details about his work and roles in preservation.

Click For Enlargement
Silvano Jung on an
Australian wreck survey

Tell a little about yourself & your interest in WWII
I was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1966. I left there in 1985 to commence my studies in archaeology at the University of New England (U.N.E.), Armidale, New South Wales. I then came to Darwin, Northern Territory, in 1991 to look for work after completing my Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Letters at the U.N.E. I found employment at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) as a research officer in maritime archaeology. Although I had been trained in Australian Aboriginal archaeology, I decided that I would stick with maritime archaeology, as it was a combination of two of my interests: SCUBA diving and archaeology. While working for the museum, I became involved in developing a shipwreck database for the Northern Territory, which in turn led to my interests in the events that occurred in the South West Pacific Area during World War Two. For instance, like so many other Australians, I was unaware of the ‘Pearl Harbor’ type scenario that occurred on our front door-step, and how there remains today an archaeological record at the bottom of Darwin Harbour, relating to that event.

Speak a bit about your research with PBYs
I became involved in researching PBY histories and archaeology as a result of a contract, which I had undertaken at the MAGNT in 1995. I was employed to compile a gazetteer of submerged material culture sites for the then proposed Beagle Gulf Marine Park. Within the proposed marine park are found five PBY Catalina wreck sites, of which only one was positively identified – the RAAF’s first Catalina: Catalina A24-1. The identity of the others had become lost from living memory and one wreck site, the sixth, is still to be relocated. The Darwin Catalinas had suffered an ignominious end and I thought that they deserved better than that. I decided that, after ten years since my last degree, I would once again return to university and try to unravel the lost histories of the Darwin PBYs and to learn something about their current condition. I graduated with a Master of Arts in maritime archaeology from the Northern Territory University (Darwin) during 2001. My thesis is titled: ‘Wings beneath the sea: the aviation archaeology of Catalina flying boats in Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory’. The study of Flying boats represents a study in maritime activity. It is through the study of the remains of these amazing machines and the people that were associated with them that archaeologists and historians learn more about a way of life that is no longer.

Tell about the legislation in NT & WA related to wrecks
Heritage legislation in the Northern Territory is flawed. The Minister for the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment, who administers heritage sites and issues, has the power of veto. As result, any nominations made to the Heritage Advisory Council for places or objects to be included in the Heritage Register of the Northern Territory, under the terms and conditions of the Northern Territory Heritage Conservation Act 1991, will only succeed if the Minister sees that it is fitting thing to do. The problem lies in the ability of one person (the Minister) to ignore the advice of professionals (archaeologists and historians) if there is a conflict between heritage conservation and development invariably heritage looses out. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Western Australia Flying Boat Wreckage Site Roebuck Bay Broome, Place number: 04859 via registration report October 1, 2015

The wreck of a B-24J ‘Milady’ 42-73134 on Cox Peninsula near Darwin has been included in the Heritage Register, but it is, however, not threatened by development – at this stage. It is the first World War II aircraft wreck site to be protected by legislation in Australia – a wonderful initiative by the NT Government.

What sets the Western Australian Legislation apart from the Northern Territory’s approach is that it is the first state in Australia to declare submerged World War II aircraft wreck sites (flying boats in Broome’s Roebuck Bay) as heritage places. This occurred in December 2002. For the first time in Australia, this provides legislative protection to submerged material culture other than shipwreck sites – a wonderful initiative by the WA Government.

Mention about your role in the preservation of PBY sites

When news that the wreck site of the Catalina A24-69 was threatened by development of a new wharf for Darwin Harbour in 1994, a ‘free-for-all’ effect took place. First it was the Royal Australian Navy Reserves who raised an engine and a number of smaller artefacts as a ‘training exercise’. Then local dive business had their turn; raising a propeller and some very important diagnostic artefacts that held clues as to the identity of the wreck site, which had previously been unknown. None of this work was conducted to archaeological standards and none of the artefacts have had professional conservation treatment, which has resulted in information loss about the wreck site. The salvors also made quite a mess of the wreck in their pursuit of relics. What a sad event that all was. No reports of their activities were produced, except in SCUBA diving magazines.

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Underwater wreck site
plan of RAAF PBY A24-69

Given the developments in archaeological science and the rise of ‘aviation archaeology’ as a valid sub-branch of the discipline, I felt that it was no way to treat our fragile and finite World War II defence heritage wreck sites in this modern day and age. Who, then, would speak for the Darwin Catalinas? Spurred on by my then colleagues at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, I decided that I would investigate the Catalinas just like any other archaeological sites, following on from initial investigations by Cosmos Coroneos in 1995.

I then nominated the Darwin Catalina wreck sites for inclusion in the Heritage Register in 1998. Some members of the RAAF were supportive of the move to protect their aircraft heritage, while research into the United States Navy machines that were lost in the harbour during the initial air raid on Australia, indicated that they were protected by sovereign immunity already. No one in Australia understood what that meant. As a result, pilfering of artefacts continues to this day on both United States Navy and RAAF World War II wreck sites. Pilfering of artefacts from aircraft lost in operational service has meant that Northern Territorians have lost a lot of defence heritage already.

What do you feel should be done with remaining MIA sites?
The wreck site of an aircraft lost in fully operational serviceability while on duty, which has been untouched by vandals, is an extremely valuable military (sometimes civilian) archaeological resource of the 20th Century. MIA wreck sites, therefore, should not be interfered with unless disturbance at the wreck sites is conducted according to archaeological standards. This, of course rarely – if ever happens. Quite often a new discovery in Papua New Guinea is reported and the only thing you hear about is the remains of the aircrew being identified and buried with military honours. But what of the wreck site and the items associated with it? We mere public mortals don’t get to see any of that stuff. The wreck site, once the remains of the aircrew are taken out, is often forgotten.

Some wreck sites are well preserved – leaving them alone doesn't necessary mean that they will be lost, indeed, it is the destructive salvors who cause the most damage – not necessarily the environment in which the wreck sites occur in. I’m referring to wreck sites preserved in an anaerobic environment in the sea, and in some instances to wreck sites that occur on land, but have become buried or buried themselves during impact.

It is impractical to preserve or protect every archaeological site in the world. Sometimes we don’t even have a choice in what gets handed down to us through the passing generations eg, the standing Budhas. Every wreck site must be assessed according to its specific circumstances. For instance, is the aircraft wreck site of a rare machine; does it relate to an important event? See the table below as a guide to assessing significance.

What would you urge people who visit wreck sites?
There is a simple answer to this question. Treat them as archaeological sites, which is in fact, by definition, exactly what they are – obsolete/discarded/forgotten. It is very important to report previously unlocated wreck sites too; archaeologists rarely have time or resources to go looking for sites – we rely on other people (often local people) to find them.

I think people who take artefacts from wreck sites (either ship or aircraft wrecks) are mere thieves – exactly the same type of person who steals your car stereo. In respect to archaeological sites, removing artefacts destroys the fabric of the place that they come from. Also, people who remove artefacts, or even the entire wreck site it self, do it without recording the context of their finds and without recording how they did it – resulting in an enormous amount of information loss that can never be retrieved again.

What are your future plans for this material?
Darwin Field WorkIn 2003 I received a Northern Territory University scholarship to undertake further research into the aviation archaeology at Broome, Western Australia. I will be conducting field work there from May to November. I hope to complete my thesis in the next two and half years, but what then?

With the completion of my Master of Arts on the Darwin Catalinas and with the impending material from my current research, I hope to write on book on the aviation archaeology of north Australia. For post-doctoral work, I’m keen on back tracking over the US Navy’s Patrol Wing Ten retreat from the Philippines.

After seeing and recorded two wreck sites in Darwin, I've developed the PatWing-10 bug. I dream of chartering a vessel to go off looking for other PatWing-10 Catalinas lost in Surabaya (Morokrembangan), Borneo and the Philippines. The Empire flying boat thing is pretty addictive as well – so many unlocated/unplundered wrecks to investigate – so short a life.

Share a little of your research related to Aircraft Significance
I've included a file on archaeological significance criterion. I've also included significance criterion developed by English Heritage for your information. Read Jung's Archaeological Significance Criteria For Aircraft Document. For additional information about archaeological work: Broome (Western Australia) and Broken Wings and Broome Dive Diary.


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