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New Jersey Scuba Diving


New Jersey Scuba Diving

Anchors & Chain


Not all artifacts are easily recoverable. Ship's anchors often weigh in the hundreds or thousands of pounds, and require a well-planned expedition to bring back to shore. At right is an assortment of anchors, from the old-fashioned "Fisherman's" anchor of the 1800's to the modern stockless or "naval" anchor, and its small cousin, the Danforth anchor.

Chain Piles

Especially on older wrecks, anchors are often associated with large chain piles. After the hull rots away, the heavy chains fall in a heap to the bottom. Over time, rust and marine growth cement the loose links into a solid mass.

Where those big chain piles come from.

AnchorsAlthough the diagram above depicts the bow of a modern vessel, old sailing vessels were generally similar, except that the capstans or winches were powered by steam engines, or even by manpower in very old ships. The anchor chain is drawn up through hawsepipes in the bow of the vessel, across the deck, and finally fed down into chain lockers in the bottom of the ship. Eventually the shipwreck disintegrates, exposing a congealed mass of chain to mark the bow. Often, the associated capstans, winches, donkey boiler, and even the anchor itself are nearby.

At right, a stockless anchor drawn up into its hawsepipe, showing the handling advantages of this design over the old-style anchor below.

wooden-stocked anchor
An old-style wooden-stocked anchor stowed alongside on a sailing ship. Note the two hawsepipes where the mooring chains enter the bow.

Anchor and chain on the "Big Hankins" wreck.

stockless anchor
A rather modern-looking Navy-style stockless anchor ( see drawings above. )

Another view of the anchor, still drawn up into the fallen hawsepipe, which makes the stock of the anchor look much thicker than it really is.

Anchor chain
The anchor chain trails off in the sand. Links that are exposed to the corrosive seawater and abrasive sand have become etched and skinny.

chain pile
The chain pile is a low conglomerated lump - almost unrecognizable.
Can you make out the individual links ?


Two views of the anchor on the Sea Girt Wreck.

mushroom anchor
"Mushroom" anchors on the bow of the Winter Quarter lightship.

Capstans & Winches

Prior to steam power, the only force available on a sailing ship to perform all the necessary work was the men on board. For some tasks, such as raising the anchor, it might be necessary to yoke the entire crew to a multi-deck manual capstan. On the largest vessels, even with every available man, this might take several hours to complete. With the advent of steam power, a "donkey engine" and a single engineer could do the work of many men, in less time, and these were soon installed in almost all vessels.

In layman's terms, the difference between a capstan or windlass and a winch is that a capstan or windlass has a vertical axis of rotation, while a winch has a horizontal axis of rotation.

Modern sailors turn the capstan on the preserved sailing frigate USS Constitution. The capstan bars are removable when not in use. The vertical shaft runs down to the keel of the ship, with similar hubs on decks below.

2 decks x 8 arms per deck x 4 men per arm = 64 men,
and the Constitution was not a very big vessel, even for her day.

steam-powered winch
A steam-powered winch on a schooner barge. Note the various drums for drawing up anchor chain, towing hawsers, etc, and the anchor chains themselves going down through the deck into the chain locker below.

steam-powered winch
A remarkably similar winch in the bow of the Sea Girt wreck.
The anchor, chain pile, a small boiler, and a large towing bit are nearby.

One of several enormous winches on the Oregon
One of several enormous winches on the Oregon.

A more modern winch near the bow of the Mohawk
A more modern winch near the bow of the Mohawk.

A winch on the Macedonia
A winch on the Macedonia.



I make no claim as to the accuracy, validity, or appropriateness of any information found in this website. I will not be responsible for the consequences of any action that is based upon information found here. Scuba diving is an adventure sport, and as always, you alone are responsible for your own safety and well being.

Copyright © 1996-2016 Rich Galiano
unless otherwise noted



since 2016-09-11