Skip to main content Accessibility help

So ends this day: American whalers in Yaburara country, Dampier Archipelago

  • Alistair Paterson (a1) (a2), Ross Anderson (a3), Ken Mulvaney (a1) (a4), Sarah de Koning (a1), Joe Dortch (a1) and Jo McDonald (a1) (a2)...

Research to document Aboriginal occupation across the Dampier Archipelago has also encountered the earliest archaeological evidence for the presence of American whalers in North West Australia. Inscriptions in the form of rock engravings made by the crews of the whaling ships Connecticut (1842) and Delta (1849) have been discovered on Rosemary and West Lewis Islands. These maritime inscriptions are uniquely superimposed over earlier Indigenous rock art motifs, appearing to represent distinct mark-making practices by the whalers on encountering an already-inscribed landscape, and thus providing insight into the earliest phases of North West Australia's colonial history.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      So ends this day: American whalers in Yaburara country, Dampier Archipelago
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      So ends this day: American whalers in Yaburara country, Dampier Archipelago
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      So ends this day: American whalers in Yaburara country, Dampier Archipelago
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence (Email:
Hide All
Anderson, R. 2008. Discovering new ground—AIMA's mapping the Australian Coast database. Bulletin of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology 32: 5878.
Anderson, R. 2016. Beneath the colonial gaze: modelling maritime society and cross-cultural contact on the Southern Ocean frontier—the Archipelago of the Recherche, Western Australia. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Western Australia.
Bashford, A., Hobbins, P., Clarke, A. & Frederick, U.K.. 2016. Geographies of commemoration: Angel Island, San Francisco and North Head, Sydney. Journal of Historical Geography 52: 1625.
Bradley, R. 2009. Image and audience: rethinking prehistoric art. NewYork: Oxford University Press.
Casella, E. 2014. Enmeshed inscriptions: reading the graffiti of Australia's convict past. Australian Archaeology 78: 108–12.
Clarke, A. & Frederick, U.K.. 2016. ‘Born to be a stoway’: inscriptions, graffiti, and the rupture of space at the North Head Quarantine Station, Sydney. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 20: 521–35.
Cunningham, A. 1816–1819. Journal and Correspondence, (1816–19) 20 September 1816–7 May 1819. Melbourne: State Library of Victoria.
Dickson, R. 2007. The history of the whalers on the south coast of New Holland from 1800–1888. Carlisle: Hesperian.
Farr, J. 1983. A slow boat to nowhere: the multi-racial crews of the American whaling industry. Journal of Negro History 68: 159–70.
Frederick, U.K. & Clarke, A.. 2014. Signs of the times: archaeological approaches to historical and contemporary graffiti. Australian Archaeology 78: 9399.
Gara, T.J. 1983. The Flying Foam Massacre: an incident on the North West frontier, Western Australia, in Smith, M. (ed.) Archaeology at ANZAAS: 8694. Perth: Western Australian Museum.
Gibbs, M. 2010. The shore whalers of Western Australia: historical archaeology of a maritime frontier (Studies in Australasian Historical Archaeology 2). Sydney: Australasian Society for Australian Archaeology.
Gibbs, M. & Duncan, B.. 2015. The Dirk Hartog Island post site: early European encounters with Australia and the establishment of a maritime cultural landscape, in von Arbin, S., Nymoen, P., Stylegar, F.-A., Sylvester, M. & Gutehall, A. (ed.) Tjop tjop! Vänbok till Christer Westerdahl med anledning av hans 70-årsdag den 13 november 2015: 209–28. Skärhamn: Båtdokgruppen.
Gibson, A.M. & Whitehead, J.S.. 1993. Yankees in paradise: the Pacific Basin frontier. Alberquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
Green, J. (ed.). 2007. Report on the 2006 Western Australian Museum, Department of Maritime Archaeology, Cape Inscription National Heritage Listing Archaeological Survey. Fremantle: Australian National Centre for Excellence for Maritime Archaeology, Western Australian Museum.
Gribble, J.B. 1987. Dark deeds in a sunny land or, blacks and whites in North-West Australia. Perth: University of Western Australia.
Hanlon, D. 1988. Upon a stone altar: a history of the island of Pohnpei to 1890. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Harris, E. & Gunn, R.. 2017. The use of Harris matrices in rock art research, in David, B. & McNiven, I.J. (ed.) The Oxford handbook of the archaeology and anthropology of rock art: 1–20. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Harman, J. 2013. D-Stretch: rock art digital enhancement. Available at: (accessed 4 January 2019).
Kaiser, D.A. & Keyser, J.D.. 2008. Symbolic superimposition: overlapping shield-bearing warriors at Bear Gulch. American Indian Rock Art 34: 3759.
King, P.P. 1818. December 1817–July 1818 Remark Book. Glasgow: Mitchell Library.
Langdon, R. (ed.). 1978. American whalers and traders in the Pacific: a guide to records on microfilm. Canberra: Australian National University.
Langdon, R. 1984. Where the whalers went: an index to the Pacific ports and islands visited by American whalers (and some other ships) in the 19th century. Canberra: Australian National University.
McDonald, J. 1999. Bedrock notions and isochrestic choice: evidence for localised stylistic patterning in the engravings of the Sydney region. Archaeology in Oceania 34: 145–60.
McDonald, J. & Berry, M.. 2016. Murujuga, Northwestern Australia: when arid hunter-gatherers became coastal foragers. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 12: 2443.
Mulvaney, K. 2015. Murujuga Marni: rock art of the macropod hunters and mollusc harvesters (CRAR + M Monograph Series 1). Perth: University of Western Australia.
Mystic Seaport Museum. 2017. New London crew lists 1803–1878. Available at: (accessed 4 January 2019).
National Maritime Digital Library. 2017. American offshore whaling voyages: a digital database. Available at: (accessed 4 January 2019).
Paterson, A. 2006. Towards a historical archaeology of Western Australia's northwest. Australasian Historical Archaeology 24: 99111.
Paterson, A. & Gregory, K.. 2015. Commemorating the colonial Pilbara: beyond memorials into difficult history. National Identities 17: 137–53.
The Perth Gazette and West Australian Journal. Shipping intelligence, 8 October 1842: 2.
Re, A. 2016. Superimpositions and attitudes towards pre-existing rock art: a case study in southern Patagonia, in Bednarik, R.G., Fiore, D., Basile, M., Kumar, G. & Huisheng, T. (ed.) Palaeoart and materiality: the scientific study of rock art: 1530. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Rockman, M. & Steele, J.. 2003. Colonization of unfamiliar landscapes: the archaeology of adaptation. London: Routledge.
Sackett, J.R. 1990. Style and ethnicity in archaeology: the case for isochrestism, in Conkey, M. & Hastorf, C. (ed.) The uses of style in archaeology (new directions in archaeology): 3243. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schürmann, F. 2012. Ships and beaches as arenas of entanglements from below: whalemen in coastal Africa, c. 1760–1900. InterDisciplines 1: 2547.
Starbuck, A. 1878. A history of the American whale fishery from its earliest inception up to 1876. Washington, D.C.: Commission of Fish and Fisheries.
Stokes, J.L. 2006 [1846]. Discoveries in Australia; with an account of the coasts and rivers explored and surveyed during the voyage of HMS Beagle, in the years 1837–38,39,40,41,42 and 43 by command of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, also a narrative of Captain Owen Stanley's visits to the islands in the Arafura Sea. London: Boone.
Tindale, N.B. 1974. Aboriginal tribes of Australia. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Wace, N. & Lovett, B.. 1973. Yankee maritime activities and the early history of Australia. Canberra: Australian National University.
Weeks, D. 1851. Logbook of Ship Delta, Greenport, N.Y. September 19, 1849–May 3, 1851. New Bedford Whaling Museum, Massachusetts. Available at: (accessed 4 January 2019).
Wiessner, P. 1984. Reconsidering the behavioural basis for style: a case study among the Kalahari San. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 3: 190234.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed