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Anchors aweigh.

Byline: Stephen Guy of Merseyside Maritime Museum

THE ANCHOR is one of those very simple inventions, like the wheel, which has existed for centuries and apparently cannot be bettered.

Anchors must have been created shortly after the invention of the boat and the earliest ones were hauled up by hand.

Ship models found in Ancient Egyptian tombs dating from around 1600 BC have grooved or perforated anchor stones.

A tomb from 1400 BC has an anchor stone shaped like a T showing how things had progressed in 200 years.

By 800 BC bronze anchors were being produced in Malta. By about 300 BC anchors, now made of iron, had a more modern appearance.

A16-foot long anchor from a ship of the tyrannical Roman Emperor Caligula - dating from about 40AD- was salvaged from an Italian lake in 1929.

It is said that the first iron anchors forged in England were made in East Anglia in 573AD.

There is a modern-looking anchor depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, made to commemorate the victory of William the Conqueror over King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

As ships and anchors got bigger, a device needed to be invented to haul the anchor up - thus the capstan was born, probably more than 2,000 years ago.

This is a vertical rotating drum originally operated by sailors using removable levers known as handspikes. Crew members would sing popular songs and sea shanties as they raised the anchor.

Probably the best known is The Drunken Sailor: What shall we do with the drunken sailor?

What shall we do with the drunken sailor What shall we do with the drunken sailor?

Early in the morning?

Hooray and up she rises, hooray and up she rises...Hooray and up she rises, early in the morning.

These days capstans are powered by petrol motors, electricity, hydraulics or even pneumatics.

A large anchor outside the main entrance to Merseyside Maritime Museum came from HMS Conway, a 92-gunwooden battleship built in 1839.

Surprisingly, it is about the same size as the one from Caligula's Roman ship.

In 1876HMSConway became a school ship where thousands of Royal Navy cadets were trained.

She was anchored in the Mersey for many years before being moved to North Wales. She was wrecked in the Menai Straights in 1953 and later broken up.

The anchor, saved from the wreck with other relics, was later donated to the museum by the Conway Club - a group made up of former cadets.

Merseyside Maritime Museum is open seven days a week, admission free.


HEAVYWEIGHT: The anchor from HMS Conway at the Maritime Museum and HMS Conway docked at Liverpool for a rededication of figurehead by poet laureate John Masefield (left)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 7, 2008
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