New Submerged Site at Laysan
Posted By Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, Maritime Archaeology and
September 18, 2002
we began with a relatively simple task, documenting the
three anchors in shallow water near the landing beach at
Laysan Island. The three represented three different styles:
kedge, folding stock, and stockless anchor designs. None
of them have chains attached, so it's a bit of a mystery
as to what they're doing here at the island.
departure schedule for the Rapture was shortened
this morning; all tenders had to be back at the ship no
later than 11:45. Instead of heading south to search for
the remains of the Kaiyo Maru, then, we headed further
offshore for our second dive. The NOAA vessel Townsend
Cromwell attempted to recover an historic anchor in
this vicinity in 2001, and it should still be down there,
marked with yellow ½ inch line. On our descent, we
found our own tender's anchor set near an encrusted iron
strap emerging from the sand. Swimming in the general area
we came across not one but two more large anchors. Neither
had signs of yellow line or attempted salvage. Shapes in
nearby areas of the reef suggested encrusted iron artifacts.
We just had enough time and air left to inspect these anchors.
is a suspicious site. One large and heavily encrusted admiralty
style anchor emerges from a small sand patch amid the deep
reef, its anchor chain fouled around the top of the shank
and then diving down into the sand. The second somewhat
smaller admiralty style anchor lies flush on top of a nearby
boulder. It is so completely covered with coral and growth
that it's almost as if the reef itself grew into the outline
of an anchor. Its chain lays over the rock and descends
into the sand (in a different direction than the first).
#1: one or both of these anchors are associated with the
guano operations on Laysan between the late 19th and early
20th centuries. Perhaps they were part of a mooring system
for vessels coming to the island. One might expect, then,
than the anchor chain would be stretched out across the
sand and reef, not fouled on top of the anchor itself. One
might also believe than ships would prefer to anchor over
larger sand patches, and not so close to shallower reef
itself. However, this site is close to the entrance to the
channel for Laysan's landing. This explanation is a distinct
possibility. Research into local archives might clarify
the landing system and gear during Laysan's guano days.
#2: combining the coincidence of two misplaced anchors at
the same spot (30 feet apart) with iron debris nearby, it's
possible that this is a wreck site. Thrums Hawaiian Annual
reported that the CC Kennedy, a Hawaiian schooner,
wrecked at Laysan on March 3rd, 1905, due to poor weather
conditions. Alternatively, the bark Ceylon was lost
in this area. Maui Shipping News for November 1902 (information
gathered by Richard Rogers) reported that Captain Willer
and his crew witnessed portions of the vessel breaking up
and washing towards shore. The exposed wood from old wrecks
would have been devoured long ago by the ship worm (teredo
navalis), but the heavier iron artifacts would have been
strewn about the reef. Only further dives in this area could
shed light on this possibility.
#3: there is an entirely different explanation.
out! We're off to Pearl
and Hermes Atoll.