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You are here: /main/research/NOWRAMP 2002/features/notes about anchors


Ship Logs

The Footprints of Ships: Notes About Anchors
Written By Hans Van Tilburg, Ph.D, "Dr. Shipwreck"

Anchor at French Frigate Shoals.  Photo by Suzanne S. Finney.Anchors are somewhat like the footprints of ships and shipwrecks. Not only can you learn about their approximate age and use by observing their design (Admiralty style, folding stock, danforth, stockless, yachtsman, "lunch hook" etc.), but their position on the seafloor can reveal important clues to the maritime past.

For instance, if you find an anchor sitting on top of a shallow reef sticking out of the water, and there's no anchor chain attached…this is probably a trophy, something historic that someone found and brought back to put on display. No ship would seriously consider dropping its anchor in three feet of water on top of a reef! Ask the folks at Tern Island, they have a couple historic examples of this very thing.

Anchor at Laysan Island.  Photo by Suzanne S. Finney.If you find an anchor at the edge of a reef in shallow water…it's probably there to hold a buoy in place, marking a passage through the coral to the nearby beach landing. Laysan has old anchors off the landing which used to do this for the guano operations on the island. But if you find an anchor on a rocky bottom, its flukes not set deep in sand, and the anchor chain runs straight as an arrow in the direction of the shore…follow it! Some stricken vessel attempted (unsuccessfully) to save itself before going aground. You're on the trail of a shipwreck.

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