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The Sydney Cove


Diver recovering a porcelain flask

Campbell & Clark were heavily involved in the production and sale of alcohol at their Calcutta base. The largest proportion of the cargo comprised 7000 gallons (31,500 litres) of spirits. Around 90% of the spirit cargo was in the form of bulk rum, of which it is believed approximately 60% was salvaged. The Sydney Cove also carried a selection of bottled wines and spirits. Individual bottles were wrapped in hessian and packed 12 to a case in substantial wooden boxes for transportation. The majority of bottles recovered are hand blown from dark green glass without the use of moulds and exhibit the characteristic flaws and lack of symmetry associated with this method of manufacture.

The Sydney Cove carried a sizeable consignment of Chinese export porcelain of varying decorative style and vessel types. Whilst only three chests of the valuable ceramics were salvaged by the crew, the archaeological excavation recovered thousands of individual fragments, with a total weight of over 250 kg.

Collection of bottles retrieved during the excavation
(Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery)

A sizeable quantity of tanned sheepskins were discovered either rolled or folded during the archaeological excavation of the wreck. Whilst some leather would have been required for shipboard maintenance, the quantity of hides would suggest they were intended for sale at Port Jackson.

The remains of a substantial quantity of shoes were recovered from the wreck. The shoes were "straights", designed for use on either foot and characterised by a pointed toe and narrow instep and made from Goatskin stained red with an iron based pigment. The layers of leather which comprised the sole and heels were held together with hemp stitching and small wooden pegs. The majority of shoes were incomplete and would appear to have been shipped in pieces, for assembly in the colony.

Shoes after conservation

Shoes after conservation.
(Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery)

Numerous butchered animal bones were uncovered during the excavation. The large quantity present suggests that they were being carried as part of the cargo and not as shipboard supplies. At this time, the settlement at Port Jackson was still heavily dependent on imports of salt meat as the number of domestic animals in the colony was still extremely limited. The majority of bones recovered are from a small breed of cattle called Zebu which were common in Bengal, whilst a small proportion are Pork bones.