NASS RESEARCH CENTRE (MURDOCH UNIVERSITY)
In Association With
BARQUE STEFANO YINIKURTIRA FOUNDATION
Calling for Expressions of Interest
For a number of years the National Academy of Screen and Sound (NASS) Research Centre, Murdoch University in association with the Barque Stefano Yinikurtira Foundation (BSYF) have been developing a cutting-edge CYBER-TRAIL concept proposal based on the barque Stefano shipwreck story . The centerpiece of this story is the journey of the barque Stefano survivors with their Aboriginal benefactors along the North West coast (Carnarvon to Roebourne).
As an element of this confidential development the NASS Research Centre and BSYF have:
(i) Gathered a community of specialists, renowned artists, image-makers, leading academics, educationalist, indigenous managers and elders, pastoralist, conservationists and marine scientists who wish to contribute to this project.
(ii) Established a network of institutional collaborators and stakeholders at the highest level of research and innovation in Australia and overseas
(iii) Carried out a series of forums, conferences, colloquiums, publications and film festivals to publicize its activities among potential participants in Australia and overseas (from Zanzibar to Dubrovnik).
The preparation stage of this development is now close to completion and the BARQUE STEFANO CYBER-TRAIL team is inviting regional and state organizations to join us on this prestigious and unique undertaking.
The Barque Stefano CYBER-TRAIL will be a significant cultural and reconciliation monument in cyberspace for and on behalf of Indigenous people of the North West Australia in perpetuity. It is expected that the CYBER-TRAIL will be a unifying platform for all Aboriginal people and for Aboriginal groups of the North West Australia in particular.
The Barque Stefano CYBER-TRAIL will have a global reach. In cyberspace the Cyber-Trail will be constructed by convergent, accumulative and interactive media formats made up of the barque Stefano shipwreck information, stories, texts, images, sounds, Aboriginal song lines, music, movies, 3D experiential immersions, various data banks, and apps of all kind.
As a significant cultural cyber monument the Barque Stefano CYBER-TRAIL is expected to draw national and international attention and contribute greatly to the culture and economy of the North West region from Carnarvon to Roebourne along with national and international connections and offshoots in Fremantle, Exmouth, Onslow, Roebourne, Indian Ocean rim countries, Dalmatian coast, New Orleans, Black Sea, Cardiff, UK, to name a few.
The Barque Stefano CYBER-TRAIL will do this by being unique from inception.
The most valuable element of the CYBER-TRAIL will be its ability to attract interesting national and international contributors. The CYBER-TRAIL will invite and facilitate contributions from world cyber specialists, artists, writers, performers and thinkers. The strong memberships of the NASS Research Centre and BSYF already has many such contributors. Accordingly the CYBER-TRAIL will be both an archive and a creative work.
Another valuable element of the Barque Stefano CYBER-TRAIL will be its ability to attract real-time activities such as film festivals, popular culture forums, research conferences, and innovative performances by musicians, artists, dancers and actors.
The Barque Stefano CYBER-TRAIL is expected to grow and develop as a living CYBER-TRAIL archive. It will be capable to evolve into new forms of interaction with its global users
The Barque Stefano CYBER-TRAIL project will be based on a sustainable business model that cannot be appropriated, commissioned or sold off. Each contributor will be a shareholder in the project and can withdraw their contribution at any time. The governance will be rigorous, democratic and transparent with a built-in maintenance regime.
Indigenous and other groups will be able to benefit from mobile CYBER-TRAIL guides and related material (books, artwork, forums, etc).
With the confidential stage of development now complete the CYBER-TRAIL will unfold according to the following sequential development:
- Cyber-Trail Website
- Cyber-Trail Educational Platform
- Cyber-Trail Mobile Hyper-Text
- Cyber-Trail Creative And Festive Initiatives
- Cyber-Trail Virtual Reality, Appsand AI Archive
Prospective partners from funding organizations are now invited to join this exciting and unique development.
Enquiries and EOI should be directed to the NASS Director, Dr Josko Petkovic and the BSYF Secretary Lyn Sutton
Discovering the Stefano Coast
The remote Ningaloo Coast is one of the most impressive coastlines in the world. It contains the longest fringe coral reef in Australia and its unique environment is protected by a series of marine parks. In June 2011 the World Heritage Committee declared the Ningaloo Coast, including Cape Range National Park, to be on the World Heritage List.
In 1875, when this coastline was still largely unexplored by Europeans, it became the setting for a most dramatic shipwreck story involving the stranded mariners from the barque Stefano and the local Yinikurtira (West Talanjdi) Australians. The full details of the story were kept secret for over 120 years, which helps explain why the story is still not commonly known. It was only in 1990 when Gustave Rathe, the grandson of one of the only two survivors launched his book The Wreck of the Barque Stefano off the North West Coast of Australia (Hesperian Press) that the intimate details of the shipwreck and its aftermath reached the general public. The book itself was an adaptation of the secret manuscript kept by the survivor’s descendants along with a compilation of other information available on the shipwreck.
Since the publication of Rathe’s book an ever-growing number of readers have become convinced that that the Stefano shipwreck has all the hallmarks of a classic narrative. A group of these committed enthusiasts are now working with descendants of Indigenous Australians to have this story permanently inscribed on the Ningaloo landscape as the Barque Stefano Trail. They have established a not-for-profit foundation for this purpose and are presently seeking to raise funds for the construction and the maintenance of the Trail. The high point of the Trail will be a chain of spectacular beach artworks leading to an Indigenous Education and Research Centre for Land and Sea Coastal Habitat in Exmouth. When the Trail is completed, the Ningaloo coastline as a whole will become one large exterior art gallery, hosting twenty-one large sculptures by Australian and international artists. The visitors will be guided to these localities by a GPS-connected Trail in cyberspace. The efforts of the Foundation group have already been rewarded in 2011 with a Lotterywest Trail Planning grant which finalise the coordinates of the route.
In October 1875, the Stefano was plying the Indian Ocean from Cardiff to Hong Kong with a cargo of black coal. Although flying the Austro-Hungarian flag, the Stefano’s seventeen-strong crew was made up mostly of Dalmatian-Croatian boys and young men. The oldest man on board was Captain Vlaho Miloslavich, who was twenty-nine. The Second Captain Karlo Costa was twenty-four. The two survivors, Ivan Jurich and cadet Miho Baccich were twenty and sixteen respectively. The youngest mariner was Henry Groiss – a young boy from Cardiff who was only ten or eleven.
Pictures courtesy Gustave Rathe
The Australian coast was first sighted from the Stefano on 26 October. After checking the ship’s chronometer near Cape Cuvier, the captain ordered the Stefano to be turned in a north-by-west direction with the aim of sailing though the Ombay Straight in the Indonesian Archipelago. Yet unexpectedly, on 27 October 1875 at 2:30 am, the Stefano ran aground on an underwater reef off the Ningaloo Coast and in the vicinity of Point Cloates. The vessel broke up a few hours after the impact. Of the Stefano’s seventeen crew, only ten survived to reach the Ningaloo shore including the second Captain Karlo Costa.
For the stranded sailors the first three days on the strange Australian shore were full of trepidation. According to their onboard navigational directory they were stranded on a cannibal coast. On the fourth day after the shipwreck the mariners’ makeshift beach camp was “invaded” by a group of Aborigines. To their great relief the mariners found the first Australians to be helpful and kind to them. Miraculously from the castaways’ point of view, the Aborigines also gave them a map of the region which they had retrieved from the shipwreck’s flotsam scattered along the then-unnamed Jane Bay beach. With map in hand the grateful castaways immediately set out on a journey of 120 miles to the Gascoyne River, thinking that the Gascoyne might be a place where they would find a settlement. Not surprisingly, the European mariners were not all that good at finding food or water in the unfamiliar semi-desert Australian landscape, and after seven days of walking they were all facing death from thirst. Once again, passing Aborigines came to their rescue by leading the parched men to what we now know as Bulbarli and Warroora Aboriginal wells.
The mariners spent only a day recovering from their ordeal before again resuming their trek south towards the Gascoyne River. On 15 November they stopped about four miles south of Red Bluff to reassess their situation. Water supplies were running low. Wracked with disagreement about the likely prospects of their journey, they all decided to return to the two Aboriginal wells where in the previous week they had found water. Here, they settled into a comfortable beachside cave and a reasonably predictable routine, scrounging food and water while wondering what to do next.
This simple subsistence living did not last. On Christmas Day, the castaways were hit by a fierce cyclone. Two mariners died during the storm. Others had to confront a new and imminent threat to their survival after the storm had passed. The cyclonic winds had scattered all the fish to deeper waters and destroyed much of the vegetation that was feeding the men. All that remained were the prolific local beans. The mariners took to eating these without realising they were poisonous unless properly prepared: one by one, they died from the toxicity.
In the last week of January only three mariners were still alive, though in desperate condition. Facing a most certain death in a darkened cave, hallucinating and nearly mad with hunger, Baccich and Jurich, began to devour one of their deceased comrades. An angry curse from the last of their dying comrades caused them to stop and they spent the remaining two days resigning themselves to the inevitable death. Ironically, it was at this point that the “cannibals” they initially feared came again to their rescue. This intervention begins one of the most poignant stories ever told about indigenous Australians.
For three months the two Stefano mariners were nursed to health by their Aboriginal benefactors, who in time led them to the tip of the North West Cape. Here, at Bundegi Beach, they were discovered and picked up on 18 April 1876 by Captain Charles Tuckey of Mandurah in his pearling cutter Jessie. Tuckey took the two survivors to Fremantle, where they disembarked on 5 May 1876.
The arrival of the two survivors at Fremantle, some six months after the shipwreck of the Stefano, gave rise to much excitement in Western Australia. Pemberton Walcott was dispatched in the schooner Victoria to ascertain conditions at the wreck site – which he did in considerable detail. The plight of the two survivors was reported in many local newspapers and dramatised on stage during fundraising events. The goodwill towards their Indigenous benefactors became almost contagious in a colony notorious for ill-treatment of the first Australians. The positive mood was such that the two survivors were asked by the colonial government to take gifts to the Aborigines who had helped them survive. This they did on 4 July when they landed at Bandigi beach – the same spot where they were previously picked up by Tuckey. It is easy to imagine this happy reunion, to imagine how different the troubled relationship between Europeans and indigenous Australians could have been.
The events of this story would probably have been lost to history were they not recorded in a manuscript of 276 handwritten pages. The manuscript was completed towards the end of 1876 in Miho’s home town of Dubrovnik, with the assistance of the local priest, Canon Stjepan Skurla. A votive painting of the rescue scene was also commissioned from the highly regarded maritime painter Ivankovic and donated to the Church of Our Lady of Mercy, Dubrovnik, as was the custom of the day.
Only two copies of the manuscript were ever made. One was kept by the survivor Miho Baccich, while the other went to his uncle, Nikola Baccich, the owner of the Stefano.
In 1879, Miho Baccich completed his naval training and in 1880-81 he became the captain of a brand new barque the Risorto (Resurrection). The barque was built and named especially for him by his uncle, to commemorate his return to the land of the living. Yet the wider Stefano story suggests that resurrections do not always have a happy ending. Miho Baccich found it difficult to live in a town where everyone thought he had already died. His first trip aboard the Resurrection was to New Orleans, USA. Here he met his future wife Angelina (Cietcovich) Baccich and decided to abandon the Resurrection and settle on land instead. Baccich never returned to Dubrovnik or to the sea, but he always kept his manuscript. Written in Italian, the lingua franca of the day, it was not until 1920 that it was translated into English by his linguist wife Angelina. At that time of the translation Miho was in good health and living with Angelina and their large family of seven children - six daughters and one son. Subsequently each child was given a copy of the translated manuscript and the story itself became part of the family heritage.*
The Stefano manuscript is first and foremost a unique ethnographic document recorded by people who lived with Indigenous Australians for six months and who came to admire their Aboriginal hosts. This admiration is not simple or gushing but arises from pathos described in the manuscript. As a description of Aboriginal pre-contact culture observed in situ, the manuscript is vitally important.
* The edited version of this translation with additional analysis is available online at: IM: Interactive Media e-journal, Issue 3 2007 with Addendum (2009) - These documents can be seen here and here.
That importance the Stefano manuscript only became clear to the general public in 1990 with the publication of Rathe’s book. Gustave Rathe’s first-person account of his grandfather’s shipwreck follows the events described in the manuscript quite closely. Because of this and because of the affectionate tone of Rathe’s narrative, his book has, to many, become the accepted version of the Stefano story, so popular that it can now be read in seven languages, over many reprints. The book is often compared to Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Stevenson’s Treasure Island, but the Stefano narrative’s voice of authenticity surpasses the two fictional tales.
The book was most warmly received by descendants of Yinikurtira Aboriginals, who consider it (and the manuscript on which it is based) an appropriate description of their pre-contact history. Accordingly, they’re eager to have the story widely known. It was the wish of Syd Dale, traditional custodian of Yinikurtira land, that the Stefano story be used to educate all Australians about Aboriginal culture and Yinikurtira culture in particular. Constructing a cultural heritage trail is an excellent way of doing this in perpetuity.
The Barque Stefano Trail will recreate in cyberspace and in situ the 350 km, six-month journey undertaken by the stranded mariners. The manuscript will provide the essential narrative for the Trail, along with a map that identifies twenty-one significant points on the castaways’ journey.
From the Stefano manuscript we learn that the Ningaloo coast was once alive with hundreds of nomadic Australians living in harmony with nature. Although the original nomads are now mostly gone from the North West Cape region, the land that once defined their existence remains relatively unchanged. As a consequence, the presence of the original inhabitants can still be felt in the sense of place, in the spirit of the landscape, in the waters, sky and sand. Walking along the beaches of Ningaloo it’s easy to imagine the excited voices of Yinikurtira children, laughing and running along the shore, looking at the starry skies at night and listening to stories around campfires, singing songlines before settling to sleep in the warm sand of the Ningaloo dunes. The spirit of Yinikurtira still lingers in the names of the landscape, including ‘Ningaloo’ itself: (from Ningolo - Nose), Badjirrajirra, Bundera, Giralia, Jogodor, Pilgonaman, Winderabandi, Yalobia and Yardie to name a few.
For the Barque Stefano Trail group several questions were foremost in their mind: How can one celebrate the spirit of the Yinikurtira country and the people that once lived on it? And how to do this in a way that can be appreciated by all visitors that come to Ningaloo? How can one commemorate the deaths of the fourteen Stefano Dalmatian-Croatian mariners and the young Welsh boy who died along this Trail in 1875-1876 without disturbing the pristine Ningaloo coastline?
Art is often the most efficient way of inspiring complex and open-ended reflections. Sculptures on the beach in particular can add value to this outstanding coast without taxing it too much, while adhering to prescribed pathways. For these reasons the main path of the trail will be marked by a series of sculptures created by Australian and international artists. The first of these will be built at the rescue site on Bundegi beach - just north of Exmouth.
Each Trail sculpture will invoke some element of the shipwreck story for the visitors to behold, reflect and meditate upon, from one section of the shipwreck story to another, from one inspiring landscape to the next one. The Trail itself will be experienced as a linked sequence of contemplative places – even sacred sites – in a sublime landscape gallery. Like Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, the Stefano Trail art gallery will be built in the spirit of a large outdoor secular church, each point of the journey replicating not the Stations of the Cross, but a space of Dreaming where all dialogues about the nature of human beings are possible.
Establishing a permanent Indigenous education and research centre in Exmouth will be another component of the Trail construction. This centre will act as the archival hub for the Trail and will harness the synergies that exist between the Trail activities and World Heritage-listed coastline research. Both are centred upon the pristine pre-contact coastal land and marine habitat associated with it. Information from the Exmouth centre will also be made available to Trail participants through portable mobile devices in a way that will create a parallel online GPS connected cyber-Trail. Already, hundreds of words once used by the Yinikurtira people along this coast have been compiled by the Trail team for this purpose. In essence, the 350 kilometre Trail will form a living archive as well as an innovative Indigenous “university”. It will invite most exciting, educational and cultural contemplations, set against the pristine Ningaloo landscape, with potential to benefit the north west region as a whole and its Indigenous population in particular.
On The Beach
The west coast is Australia’s shipwreck coast. Walking along the Ningaloo beach Trail one is likely to come across some weathered piece of wood that reminds us of another time and another place. As a nation of immigrants, contemporary Australians are acutely aware of being stranded. The Trail participant will be invited to engage with issues of land, origins, identity and displacement: local and geopolitical issues, such as the loss of cultural identity, loss of languages, loss of diversity – the issues that arise from human “shipwrecks” associated with refugees, migration, colonisation, urbanisation and globalisation. This larger Stefano story involves many countries, customs and religions, both past and present. So many, in fact, that the story becomes a metaphor for our contemporary hybrid world in which we need to learn how to live and appreciate one another, like the stranded Stefano sailors and their Aboriginal benefactors.
Barque Stefano Cyber-Trail Committee
BARQUE STEFANO CYBER-TRAIL
The Barque Stefano Cyber-Trail will recreate in cyberspace the 350 km, six-month, journey undertaken by the barque Stefano survivors after their vessel became shipwrecked off Point Cloates on 27 October 1875. Of the 17 Stefano crew only two survived the ordeal. They did so by joining the passing Aboriginal nomads and by living with them for 3 months until they were picked up on 18 April 1876 by Charles Tuckey, who brought them to Fremantle.
Two months afterward, on 4 July 1876, the two survivors returned to the place of their rescue at Bundegi Beach to thank their Indigenous benefactors and to deliver gifts from the Governor and the people of Western Australia. This occasion turned out to be a most happy reunion of friends. The reconciliation spirit of this reunion underpins the theme of the Cyber-Trail.
The 276-page manuscript on the shipwreck ordeal, written in 1876 after the two Stefano survivors returned home, offers a unique perspective on the Pre-Contact Aboriginal culture as well as providing the essential narrative for the Barque Stefano Cyber-Trail. The positive interaction between the Stefano mariners and the Indigenous Australians provides the overarching theme for the Barque Stefano Cyber-Trail. The manuscript comes with a map that identifies 21 significant points on the castaways’ journey (Points A-Z) as depicted in the enclosed map below. The A-Z points on this map will provide the principle architecture for the Cyber-Trail.
The proposed Barque Stefano Cyber-Trail will commemorate the Stefano shipwreck story and celebrate kindness and generosity of the First Australians. It was the wish of Syd Dale, the traditional custodian of Yinikurtira land, that the Trail be used to educate all Australians about Aboriginal culture and the Yinikurtira culture in particular.
A/Prof Josko Petkovic
Murdoch University - Project Coordinator
Innovative Software Design - Cyber Consultant
A/Prof Mick Broderick
Murdoch University - 3D Consultant
Dr John McMullan
Murdoch University - Producer
Prof Greg Battye
University of Canberra - Data Consultant
Dr Glen Stasiuk
Murdoch University - Producer
Dr Martin Mhando
Zanzibar International Film Festival - Consultant
Murdoch University - Visual Artist
BARQUE STEFANO FESTIVE "REUNION" TRADITION
The Trails will initiate a festive tradition to celebrate the happy reunion between the two surviving mariners and their Indigenous benefactors at Bundegi beach on 4 July 1876. The month of July is the high tourist season in Exmouth and 4 July is a significant date. Apart from being the American Independence Day this is also when NAIDOC celebrations take place. Accordingly, the proposed Trail’s reunion festive tradition has a natural foundation on which to grow and consolidate in years to come.
Plans are already underway to arrange for an International Indian Ocean Conference and a Film Festival at the same time. These events will be linked with other festive events in the region (musical, star-gazing, theatre performances and similar activities). Funding of this important Trail item will be sought externally, in the first instance, and coordinated primarily by Murdoch University and NASS Research Centre. In time creative arts postgraduates will be invited to create and launch festivities that will engage the local community and visitors with the Stefano story in an interesting and thought-proving ways.
A/Prof Jenny de Reuck
Dr Martin Mhando
Dr Audrey Fernandes Sator
Arif Fernandes Sator
A/Prof Josko Petkovic
MOBILE TRAIL GUIDE
Most of the 350 km Barque Stefano Trail can be traversed by public access roads. Because of the long distance involved it is expected that the Trail locations will be reached using vehicles and completed by a short walk. The Trail itself can be considered as a contemplative 350 km outdoor landscape gallery that the participants can navigate at leisure and over time with the help of their mobile GPS devices.
To protect the world heritage-listed landscape the Trail guide and safety information will be available, primarily as Mobile GPS Apps. The Trail Apps will have the usual tourist information informing the trail participants of recreational areas, fishing areas, marine parks sanctuary zone, availability of water, communication, accommodation, food, emergency contacts and medical facilities. All other relevant information on the shipwreck story will be available as mobile Apps as well. This will include “Knowledge Tourism” information on the local geology, geography, geophysics, hydrology, marine biology, flora and fauna, meteorology, marine archaeology, pre-contact archaeology, Aboriginal sites, Aboriginal language, maritime history, early colonial history, indigenous coastal culture, nomadic beach culture, as well as contemporary beach culture to name a few. The apps will include images, maps, sounds and will in itself constitute a creative work. There is no end to the amount of information and images that can be included in the cyber Trail guide and this information will be continually updated.
A/Prof Josko Petkovic
A/Prof Mick Broderick
Dr John McMullan
Prof Greg Battye
Dr Glen Stasiuk
Dr Martin Mhando
In time, the Barque Stefano Trail will have a permanent signage in situ. Art is often the most efficient way of inspiring complex and open-ended signage. Sculptures on the Beach in particular can add value to this outstanding coast without taxing it too much except along prescribed pathways.
In this context The Stefano Trail would be best served by a series of sculpture – as many as A to Z locations on the Stefano map. Twenty one significant Trail location have been selected for signage as in the original manuscript map. In time, the signage for these locations will consist of 21 high quality sculptures created by internationally renowned artists. Each one of these sculptures will define a space of secular spirituality that narrates the barque Stefano shipwreck story in perpetuity with minimal intervention on the landscape.
Dr Audrey Fernandes Sator
Arif Fernandes Sator
EDUCATION AND RESEARCH ACTIVITIES
BARQUE STEFANO YINIKURTIRA CENTRE
In time, the Barque Stefano Trail will have a permanent facility in Exmouth with archival and cyberspace capabilities that coordinate all Trail activities while hosting the Trail archive, seminars, conferences and a permanent exhibition. A number of our committees have been working on this possibility for some years and will continue to do so with more energy at the commencement of this project.
Establishing a permanent facility in Exmouth will be facilitated by strong synergies between the Barque StefanoTrail activities and the World Heritage listed coastline research. The Stefano shipwreck story describes the pristine pre-Contact coastal land and marine habitat to the Trail participants. This is exactly the focus of the World Heritage-listed coastline research. Accordingly the Trail development can easily dovetail into this ongoing research and incorporate it into the Trail archive available to the Trail participants.
The Stefano Yinikurtira Trail, in turn, can promote the World Heritage-listed research through the Stefano story nationally and internationally. It can also do this by jointly hosting relevant seminars, conferences and festivals as we have done over a number
of years. In this fashion the Stefano Trail can contribute greatly to Exmouth becoming an international centre for the study of coastal land and marine habitats. The town could become a significant educational, research and convention centre as well as a tourist centre. Ultimately this development could well give rise to an “Indigenous University” that undertakes a most sophisticated study of the coastal land and marine habitat from Aboriginal perspective and with leadership of the First Australian.
Prof David Andrich
Prof Greg Battye
Dr Mirko Sardelic
A/Prof Josko Petkovic