Patrick Baker

Article | Updated 5 months ago

Patrick Baker’s work can be found throughout Western Australian Museum publications, exhibitions, websites, and archives. His 48 years as a specialist photographer and his participation in over 70 marine expeditions has enormously contributed to the field of maritime archaeology.

 

Pat became interested in underwater exploration at the age of ten. The specialist diving books in the Chelsea Public Library were well thumbed, and articles in the National Geographic Magazine devoured. The work by diving greats Hans and Lotte Hass fuelled Pat’s intrigue as he envisioned the way divers could experience the untouched past.

Pat began to study photography in high school. His passion later led him to enrol at the Polytechnic School of Photography in London. During his time at Polytechnic he developed technical skills that proved integral to his career, often constructing his own camera equipment to further develop underwater photography techniques.

Although he had previously undertaken scuba diving lessons, it was not until Pat completed a recreational underwater archaeology course in 1969 that he realised he could combine diving with his interest in photography.

It was during this time that he made the acquaintance of Jeremy Green who invited him to work on a shipwreck expedition in Cyprus. Jeremy recognised the value in having specialist photographers on marine projects; they are able to record and map underwater sites, as well as document the excavation and conservation process.

Following the success of this expedition Pat ventured to underwater archaeological projects in Britain, Sweden and the Azores.

Patrick's first successful underwater archaeological photograph. Cyprus 1970

Patrick's first successful underwater archaeological photograph. Cyprus 1970
Photo by Patrick Baker 

In 1971 Pat again found himself in contact with Jeremy, who had since become the Head of Marine (now Maritime) Archaeology at the WA Museum. Jeremy’s team had received funding to excavate the 1629 shipwreck of the Batavia, which lay 50 kilometres off the coast of Western Australian. Pat was offered a place as the photographer within the department, a position he has remained in for over four decades.

Photographs from the Batavia Discovery

Batavia archway stones laid out after being raised from the siteBatavia archway stones laid out after being raised from the site
Image copyright WA Museum
Bringing the cannon down the jettyBringing the cannon down the jetty
Image copyright WA Museum
Bringing the cannon down the jettyBringing the cannon down the jetty
Image copyright WA Museum
Cataloguing and processing artefactsCataloguing and processing artefacts
Image copyright WA Museum
Divers testing equipment off the jetty before venturing out to the site.Divers testing equipment off the jetty before venturing out to the site.
Image copyright WA Museum
Divers working on the siteDivers working on the site
Image copyright WA Museum
Excavating a concreted pile of cannon ballsExcavating a concreted pile of cannon balls
Image copyright WA Museum
Inspecting timbers as they are removed from HenriettaInspecting timbers as they are removed from Henrietta
Image copyright WA Museum
Labelling and recording the hull timbers before removalLabelling and recording the hull timbers before removal
Image copyright WA Museum
Lifting a cannonLifting a cannon
Image copyright WA Museum
The Museum's workboat, HenriettaThe Museum's workboat, Henrietta
Image copyright WA Museum
Raising one of the hull timbersRaising one of the hull timbers
Image copyright WA Museum
The famous Batavia astrolabeThe famous Batavia astrolabe
Image copyright WA Museum
The Museum's workboat, HenriettaThe Museum's workboat, Henrietta
Image copyright WA Museum
Trip back from the site to Beacon - timbers are in the crate at the back where they remained wet.Trip back from the site to Beacon - timbers are in the crate at the back where they remained wet.
Image copyright WA Museum
Underwater chainsaws were used to make some of the largest pieces more manageable when removedUnderwater chainsaws were used to make some of the largest pieces more manageable when removed
Image copyright WA Museum
View from Henrietta down the jetty to Beacon IslandView from Henrietta down the jetty to Beacon Island
Image copyright WA Museum
View of the site before timbers were raised View of the site before timbers were raised
Image copyright WA Museum
Work uniform of the time...Work uniform of the time...
Image copyright WA Museum
Working on the site with the dredge Working on the site with the dredge
Image copyright WA Museum
Working on the site with the dredge Working on the site with the dredge
Image copyright WA Museum

 

In addition to his work on Western Australian wrecks such as the Batavia, James Matthews and SS Xantho, Pat has also worked on the HMS Pandora in Queensland, HMS Sirius on Norfolk Island and King Henry VIII’s Mary Rose in England.

Pat’s skill set has led him to volunteer his services for other marine science investigations; zoological, botanical ecological, geological and anthropological. His thorough understanding of the field and his eagerness to share knowledge has provided invaluable resources.

He has twice won the international BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition (1986 and 1996), and has had his work featured in multiple publications. In 2014 the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA) announced the Patrick Baker Award, given for exceptional underwater photography.