One of the collection objects on display at HRNM is a 200-year-old anchor. Its modern-day journey began back in 1993 while USS Kittiwake (ASR 13), a submarine rescue ship, was on a routine operation in the Elizabeth River. Kittiwake recovered the anchor, which dates back to the early 1800s. For twelve years, it was under the care of the Department of Maritime History and Underwater Research at East Carolina University. While the anchor’s journey began back in the early 1800s, there are no markings or records to enlighten us about the anchor’s past.
The large iron loop at the top of the anchor goes through a smaller loop at the top of the shank. The loop, along with the curvature of the anchor's arms, are two of the design elements that show experts that this anchor is from the early 1800s. In addition, the band that wraps around one of the arms of the anchor and is riveted to the bottom of the fluke was a common repair method used in the early 1800s. Although anchors were made out of wrought iron, many were damaged when lowered quickly and their flukes broke as they hit the ocean floor. Anchors were constructed in the Royal Naval Dockyards and created with pieces of iron welded together. The iron was heated to a “white heat” and beaten into the appropriate shape with sledgehammers. The process was not without problems. When the anchors were welded, the hammering did not remove all of the air and bubbles, which created weaknesses in the final product.
One feature that was not common among the anchors of the early 1800s was a gravity band. One of these bands is placed in the middle of our anchor’s shank. An expert from ECU believes this to be an addition at a later date, perhaps when the anchor was repaired. The anchor’s dimensions, approximately eleven feet tall with six feet between its flukes, led the experts at ECU to believe it is a bower anchor. The name implies its place is at the bow of a ship. Based on the anchor’s weight of approximately 1200 pounds, it may have belonged to a vessel that weighed between 150 and 200 tons.
Stay tuned for more information about the preservation of this historic anchor!
(This blog post was written by HRNM Public Relations Coordinator Susanne Greene.)