Long-Lost Anchor May Soon Be Identified

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After decades, possibly centuries, at the bottom of the sea — and a 2,200-mile-long (3,540 kilometers) road trip wrapped in damp blankets in the back of a pickup truck — a barnacle-crusted anchor arrived in Texas this week for a major cleaning.

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The men who raised the object from the floor of the Puget Sound hope conservation efforts will uncover proof that they found the long-lost anchor from a historic British voyage around the world.

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In 2008, a fisherman named Doug Monk was collecting sea cucumbers just north of Seattle near Whidbey Island when his diving gear got caught on a huge anchor, The Seattle Times reported. Monk teamed up with amateur historian Scott Grimm to study the object, and the two obtained legal rights to salvage it. Last month, the duo finally pulled the 10-foot (3 meters) anchor from the Puget Sound with a crane. [See Photos of Shipwrecks of the Deep Sea]

Monk and Grimm think the anchor belonged to the HMS Chatham, a service ship that accompanied the HMS Discovery on the Vancouver Expedition, a four-and-a-half-year exploration funded by the British crown in the late 18th century. In 1792, when the ship was navigating strong currents in the Puget Sound, the anchor became wedged against a large rock, and its cable snapped, according to historical records. Recovery efforts at the time failed, and the anchor was lost.

Monk and Grimm hired specialists at Texas A&M University's Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation to restore the sunken treasure. After a 36-hour drive from Washington state, the two men arrived Monday morning (July 21) in College Station, Texas, to deliver the object.

The duo, Grimm said in a statement, were confident that the conservation work would uncover markings "that show beyond a shadow of a doubt" the anchor indeed belonged to the British crown, proving wrong naysayers who think the HMS Chatham's anchor was lost farther north, somewhere in Bellingham Channel.

They may be in good company at Texas A&M, where Jim Jobling, who happens to be an expert on the history and development of English anchors, is leading the restoration at the university's Conservation Research Laboratory.

Tags history Ships