Anchors Aweigh

By in History, Ships, Transportation on April 2, 2015
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anchors-stampsThe Cayman Islands Postal Service issued a stamp series entitled ‘Anchors’ in 2013.
The stamps feature the anchors of local shipwrecks with illustrations of the ship type. The series highlight the anchors of the Mathusalem (20c), Topsy (25c), Inga (25c), Tofa ($1.50) and Glamis ($2). The first day cover features the HMS Sparrowhawk.

Anchors are an important detail because they are useful in identifying the size of a ship, since there is a specific scale of size to weight ratio between ships and their anchors. They also assist in identifying the date when a ship was built.

First Day Cover

Ships on First Day CoverThe anchor, at the dive site known as Anchor Wall in Cayman Brac, lies in a coral ravine in 80ft of water. From its shape and date it is widely accepted that it was left behind by the HMS Sparrowhawk, which was one of the survey ships that did topographic mapping of the islands during 1880-1881, which was published as a chart in 1882.  The highest point of land on Little Cayman, at 40ft above sea level, is known as Sparrowhawk Hill. Coincidentally, Blossom Village on Little Cayman is named after the hydrographic survey ship HMS Blossom which carried out the work around the islands in 1831. It is also believed that during the 1880 survey, Owen Island was named after the ship’s chief surveyor, Richard Owen.

Mathusalem stamp

The Mathusalem was a wooden barque built in 1868 by Giuseppe Tonello at his private shipyard in Trieste, Italy. A merchant vessel (used to transport cargo and passengers), she was 140 ft long, weighed 537 tons and was lost in 1893, 25 years after being built, at East End, Grand Cayman. In fact, the Mathusalem’s wreckage is amongst a number of other ships’ remains including the Glamis, Maribelle, Otto Lee and possibly the Belle of the Clyde in the same area at East End. Her anchors and piles of chains lie on the reef crest, jettisoned in attempts to lighten the load of the stricken ship.

The Inga stamp

The Inga, originally called the Peter Denny, was a three-masted, full-rigged ship with accommodation for 300 to 400 passengers. She was built in Scotland by John Duthie and Sons in 1865 and had a reputation as a fast ship. The Peter Denny was 197 ft long and had a 34ft beam and a depth of 20 ft. She weighed 998 gross tons.  In 1883/1884 the Peter Denny was sold to L. Larsen of Sandefjord, Norway and was renamed Inga. On 17 September 1888, the Inga came to grief off the south coast when she ran aground near Old Isaacs, East End – where her two anchors are located, one of which is completely submerged. The other anchor’s uppermost fluke can be seen above the surface of the water and both can easily be reached from the shore as they are in only a couple of feet of water.

The Topsy stamp

The Topsy, foundered near Buccaneer harbour, north-west Cayman Brac in February 1890. She was caught at the end of unloading her cargo and was unable to pull her massive anchor up in time to set sail around the western point of Cayman Brac to the safety of the south shore. The Topsy was a wooden barque, 89.2 ft long and weighed 139 tons. It was built by John Walsh and William Douglas on Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1853. The main anchor of the Topsy is in 40ft of water at the very popular dive site known as Buccaneer.  Her main anchor is used to tether the mooring buoy for the dive site, with the rest of the stricken ship’s remains scattered along the small wall and in the shallows. This is perhaps the most popular of the shallow diving and snorkelling sites found around the shores of Cayman Brac.

The Tofa stamp

The Tofa was built in 1891 by A. Sewall & Co in the New England region of the United States. A wooden ship of teak and birch, she had a bridge deck (the upper deck where the captain stands and from which the ship is steered), with another deck below. Weighing 631 gross tons and measuring 172 ft in length, her beam was 35ft and with a draft of 13ft she was able to carry 378 tons of cargo below deck. The Tofa was driven ashore in bad weather in September 1915.  Along the south shore of Little Cayman Island and east of Owen Island, offshore at Rocky Point, lie the Tofa’s anchors, ribs and stays.

The Glamis stamp

The Glamis was one of 21 ships built by Alexander Stephen and Sons Limited of Dundee Shipbuilding Company in 1876. She was a three-masted iron and steel barque. The Glamis weighed 1,232 gross tons, was 225.3 ft long with a depth of 21.9 ft and a beam of 34.8 ft. She was fitted with two decks with cemented bulkheads. The Glamis struck the reef off Grand Cayman’s East End on 14th August 1913. Her anchor is just part of the massive amount of broken-up remains of this steel ship which litters the shallow reef at the northeast end of Grand Cayman.

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