A TEAM of Australia's most prominent maritime archaeologists are in Gladstone this week, embarking on a research project of the HMCS Protector.
Permanent virtual preservation is the aim, combating rapid deterioration of the wreck with the use of technological surveying and traditional methods.
Dr James Hunter III, maritime archaeologist and research fellow for the South Australian Maritime Museum, is leading the project and said the purpose of the expedition was to provide comprehensive records.
"The useful career of the Protector has never ended," he said.
"It is a living shipwreck, it still has a life as a functioning breakwater. We aim to supply a predictive model to indicate the time until complete deterioration."
Team member Emily Jateff, curator at the South Australian Maritime Museum, says the Protector is an important part of Australian naval history.
"The database at the museum has extensive records of the ship, and even the descendants of those who worked on one of South Australia's colonial fleet."
The Protector served for many years and purposes, including as a cargo vessel, a whaling ship, a warship in both world wars and finally as a breakwater near Heron Island.
Lindsay Wassell, president of the Gladstone Maritime History Society, said the local shipwreck collection was extensive.
"We have a brilliant collection," he said. "In fact, we have an entire room dedicated to shipwrecks from Seventeen Seventy to Yeppoon."
Artefacts from the Protector can be located at the Gladstone Maritime Museum, including a restored saloon chair, planking decks and an anchor.
Former president Cedric Jansen said the outlying waters of the region could potentially host up to 100 shipwrecks.
Further scientific research may affirm the Gladstone region as home to Australia's oldest shipwreck, he said.
"Aquaris can be dated back to 1606," he said. "It is a grand Spanish galleon. We aren't sure of where it was going or why."