IM Issue 3, 2007 Editorial



Every now and then our research comes across material that has worth independent of our own engagement with it. In such instances the cyberspace provides an ideal vehicle to disseminate this material quickly to our readers through a special issue of IM. This issue of IM is one such special occasion.

It unveils, for the very first time, an important 1920 translation of a manuscript originally written in 1876 and entitled The Wreck of the Austro-Hungarian Barque Stefano On the North West Coast of Australia [1]

The manuscript is important to us for a number of reasons. To begin with, it describes a gripping story of survival on the arid North West coast of Australia. More importantly it paints a fascinating picture of a six-months-long interaction between the shipwrecked Stefano sailors and members of two North West Aboriginal tribes.

This positive interaction took place in most dramatic circumstances and during the period when these indigenous groups still had very little contact with the Western Australian colonial settlements. Publishing the manuscript is valuable for its anthropological content alone.

More importantly, the manuscript is likely to be useful to descendants of the North West Aboriginal groups when documenting claims to their ancestral land.

There are other reasons for publishing. The manuscript is now more than130 years old and the stories that grew out of it are almost as interesting as the manuscript itself. Largely unseen, the manuscript has given rise to many related works and activities, across many countries and continents, including a book that has been translated into several languages. So much so that the manuscript – even in its absent form – can be considered as an interactive medium for those who have engaged with it, including the present writer.

One aim of publishing this translation is to interact with some of these contextual elements of the Stefano story. We hope to do this through a number of editorial experiments, starting with the publication of this manuscript:

  • Interacting with the IM Journal – The Stefano Website:
    The publishing of the Stefano manuscript will be the foundation stone of an ongoing Stefano website. By constructing such a website we aim to engage with all those writers who have something to say on the Stefano shipwreck story.
  • Digital Repository:
    Another aim of the Stefano website will be to provide a digital repository for documents that relate to the Stefano shipwreck (stories, images, sound, activities and engagements – historical, creative and otherwise) so that these can be archived on this site. In this way we hope to share our research with indigenous groups quickly and efficiently.
  • Hyper-textual Experiment:
    Yet another aim of creating the Stefano website is to explore the architecture of a developing cyber-archive. This exploration can potentially engross us in endless series of questions, including:

    • How to structure past events in cyberspace?
    • What connection and interconnections should one have within such a cyberarchive?
    • Should the archive be based on: chronology, on a rhizome of links, on frequency of access or on ratings?
    • Should contributions to such a site continue to be refereed or not?
    • Should some elements be refereed and others not?
    • If there are spontaneous non-refereed contributions, should these be moderated?
    • Should there be a censor?
    • How will the architecture of such a website account for its temporal dimension?
    • Should there be a beginning and an end or can one interact with the site by starting anywhere within it?

All these questions can also relate to another single and potentially more general question: How to structure a memory?

  • Shipwreck Metaphor:
    The shipwreck metaphor is implicit in so many of our life/death narratives; life itself can be described as a shipwreck – we are shipwrecked into life at birth and most of us spend the rest of our lives wondering how, and when, we are going to be rescued. Being shipwrecked into life is such a fundamental social narrative that it is tempting to ask if it can be used as a framing metaphor for other social narratives as well as in structuring stories, hypertexts and websites in general.
  • On the Ship of the World:
    The larger Stefano story involves so many countries, customs and religions – both past and present – so many in fact that the story itself provides a good metaphor for our contemporary hybrid world. Potentially, this can be a most creative element of the Stefano story which could draw our readers into specific Stefano related geopolitical issues, such as loss of cultural identity, loss of languages, loss of diversity – to name but a few issues that arise from human “shipwrecks” associated with migration, colonisation, urbanisation and globalisation.

To initiate some of these contextual and editorial experiments, this issue of IM initially comprised:

  • The Stefano Shipwreck of 1875: An Introduction
  • Who is the Author of the Stefano Shipwreck Manuscript?
  • The 1920 Translation of the Stefano Shipwreck Manuscript: Notes from the Editor

Subsequently it has evolved to its current form, providing a comprehensive reference site on the Stefano shipwreck.


[1] The original is in Italian, as is the title – I Naufraghi del Bark Austro-Ungarico Stefano alla Costa Nord-Ovest dell Australia.