Mystery anchor could become tourist attraction on St Mary's
THE anchor of a wrecked ship could be presented to the islands' council for public display as a tourist attraction on the bank adjoining the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) at Porthcressa on St Mary's.
Divers Todd Stevens and Robin Burrows have sought a Marine Management Organisation (MMO) licence in order to lift the anchor, 18ft long, 11ft wide and thought to be 18th-century, from the seabed off uninhabited Samson island.
There anchor's origins are the subject of debate, with Mr Stevens and Mr Burrows saying they believe it to be the bower (sheet) anchor of the Nelsonian warship HMS Colossus, wrecked in 1798 with a priceless cargo of porcelain, and exactly meets known dimensions.
However, a larger group of island divers, led by shipwreck historian Richard Larn, insist it comes from the 1707 wreck of Sir Cloudesley Shovell's flagship HMS Association, and was deposited off Samson by Royal Navy divers in the 1960s after being recovered from the wreck site at the Gilstone in Scilly's Western Rocks.
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Mr Larn says that in August 1967 divers of the inshore minesweeper HMS Puttenham, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Ted Barter, raised a bower anchor estimated at three tonnes from the wreck of HMS Association, using lifting bags.
"On the surface the ship's massive winch and two davits allowed the anchor to be secured across the stern of the 'sweeper," he said. "That afternoon the anchor was taken to St Mary's Roads to the vicinity of Nut Rock … where it was placed on the seabed."
Mr Larn admits no accurate measurements were taken at the time, its size and weight only being estimated, but said: "What is well known from local knowledge is that no one has ever removed it."
Mr Stevens is the author of the book Wreck Of The Colossus: A Find Of A Lifetime and lives in a house named after the ship.
Though he said he remained steadfast in his belief that the anchor belonged to HMS Colossus, for the sake of harmony among the islands' competitive diving fraternity he was prepared to concede to the weight of majority opinion.
"It's a lovely thing and it's better to concede the point and let the argument die," he says. "It would be a shame if an on-going wrangle were to overshadow what is by any standards an interesting historical artefact which could become a tourist attraction. Hopefully we can work together in order to clear any hurdles placed in the way of getting this important artefact on display at Scilly.
"We aim to do as much as possible free of charge to this community – ie. the lift and conservation, which we can do ourselves at no cost.
"However, if the plan is accepted by the council, funding will be sought to fabricate a modest stainless steel structure to hold the anchor in an upright position. Once in place, it will then be monitored and maintained by myself thereafter.
"The hope is that it will be seen by visitors as they move through the town and thus draw them towards the new tourist information centre (TIC). It will become a local landmark for the TIC."