|The Search for Vancouver's Anchor Powerpoint Presentation
It is always a matter of chaos and immediate action when a vessel loses
its anchor. It borders on catastrophic when the vessel is thousands of
miles from its homeport and is carrying no spare. This unwelcome
circumstance assailed the Chatham, one of the two vessels of the
Vancouver expeditions in the cold and deep waters off the San Juan
Islands. That anchor, lost two hundred and ten years ago, almost
certainly lies now where it was lost. Additionally it is the only
empirical proof of Vancouver's exploration and British claims in the
To explain the circumstances for the loss of the anchor we begin with
the departure of the HMS Chatham in England...
As loved one's waved goodbyes and government officials eagerly
encouraged the departure to grab lands in the New World, the Chatham
left England on April 1st, 1791, as the Armed Tender to the HMS
Discovery, the flagship of Captain George Vancouver. Both vessels were
bound for the Northwest coast of America. In April 17, 1792 they
reached soundings off the Cape of Mendocino in Northern California.
Traveling north they would venture in close (but not too close as too
close was often an invitation to disaster) to shore to explore, sound,
map and observe the local fauna and topography. At night they would
stand out to sea for safety. Safety from the tides, reefs, rocks and
unfriendly locals. On April 29th they entered the Straits of Juan de
Fuca. A few days later, at the suggestion of Lt. William Broughton,
commanding officer of the Chatham, they anchored in a very large bay.
Calm waters and an abundance of fresh water and game beckoned them to
the first anchorage for the expedition and was named Port Discovery
after the expedition's flagship. It was later changed to Discovery Bay.
anchor similar in size and style - stock missing.
Chatham in the background and a foundered HMS Discovery in foreground
to logs, for the next two weeks, Vancouver used this calm bay as a base
from which he and his men, in open boats, explored the upper waters of
what is now Admiralty Inlet as well as the total waterway of Hood Canal.
On May 18th Vancouver personally explored the large hill on Protection
Island, which sits astride of the opening to Discovery Bay. From the
summit of Protection Island one could see many islands - the San Juan
Islands - to the northeast. Vancouver directed Lieutenant William
Broughton, the commanding officer of the Chatham, to explore those
islands while he and the Discovery explored the waters to the south.
Broughton set out
on that reconnaissance on May 18th, 1792. He returned to the Discovery
anchorage between Blake and Bainbridge Island on May 25th,
1792Vancouver made in his journal one brief entry mentioning
"Mr. Broughton informed me, that
the part of the coast he has been directed to explore, consisted of an
archipelago of islands lying before an extensive arm of a sea
stretching in a variety of branches between the N.W. north, and N.N.E."
Vancouver's sparse entry leads one to believe that Lt. Broughton had
accomplished little during his week of exploration. Fortunately,
however, Lt. Broughton's hand-written report of his exploration of
those islands, (known today as the San Juan's) is preserve and now
located in the British Nautical Museum. The report reveals that the men
of the Chatham were far from idle.
existence of Lt. Broughton's manuscripts has long been known. It was
one reprinted by the Washington Historical Quarterly under the title;
"Broughton's log of a Reconnaissance of the San Juan Islands 1792."
The British Hydrographic Office - in England - archives materials from
the Vancouver expedition. Of particular interest is a hand-drawn chart
by Lt. Broughton with only two places named, "Birch bay" and another
Bay." The first glance at the chart is puzzling; its features look
completely unfamiliar. But, when you lay the hand drawn chart next to a
modern navigational chart of the American San Juan Islands the
similarity is immediate. Only a handful of the rough charts of the
Vancouver expedition have survived to the present day. It was argued
that without a doubt, the chart of Lt. Broughton was the first chart of
the San Juan Islands, however scholars since have noted that Francisco
Eliza and crew, aboard the San Carlos, a Spanish Brig, did the "first
chart" of the San Juan's the year before in 1791. Juan Carrasco was the
With the chart, and in conjunction with Broughton's written accounts,
one can easily reconstruct the course of the Chatham as it maneuvered
through the tricky and unknown current and waterways of the San Juan
Islands. After leaving Discovery Bay, the Chatham sailed almost North
across the Straits of Juan de Fuca. On that passage Broughton observed
the opening between San Juan and Lopez Islands and set his course for
the southern gateway into the islands. Sending a small boat ahead to
sound the waters of that turbulent and threatening passage, Broughton
proceed with caution through Cattle Pass and into the broad expanse of
water between San Juan and Lopez Islands. Using a dash line to mark his
progress (as on the original handwritten chart of Broughton) the
Chatham passed through Cattle Pass at the lower left side. Late that
day Broughton sailed the Chatham in the Upright Channel between Shaw
and Lopez Islands, anchoring at night off of Lopez Island.
The next day Broughton sent out two long boats under the command of
James Johnstone, master of the Chatham, to explore the northern area
Johnstone charted what we now know today as Waldron, Skipjack, Spieden,
Johns and South Pender Islands.
The next day the tireless Johnstone returned in the Chatham's cutter to
Cattle Pass to sketch the entrance through which the two vessels had
passed between Lopez and San Juan islands. At the same time there was
no wind, so Lt Broughton ordered that the two long boats tow the
Chatham toward the opening between Orcas and Blakely Islands.
On the 21st the Chatham worked her way through Peavine Pass into
Rosario Straits and on the following day Broughton sailed the Chatham
across Rosario Straits to a protected cove.
All during this time the Chatham was among the islands, Lt. Broughton
had been sending out exploring in all directions. By the 23rd of May
1792 he felt he had carried out his mission for on that date he sailed
southward to rejoin Vancouver and continue the explorations of the
water south of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
After completing their explorations south making it as far as
Commencement Bay in Tacoma, both ships headed north for the safety. The
southern portion of Puget Sound was susceptible to SSE storms with
abundance of severe currents and tides. It was during the northbound
trip when the Chatham suffered the loss of her stream anchor.
The wind had failed and as the Chatham was crossing an unknown channel
when, she was caught by the flood tide and swept helpless, to the
northeastward. To slow her progress in the waters of unknown depth the
stream anchor was dropped. When the vessel was brought to, the strain
was too much and the cable parted. Moments later the Chatham let go of
her bower and the vessel was stopped before potential disaster
This was a serious moment the potential for disaster was noted in the
journal entry by Edward Bell, the young clerk of the Chatham:
"We found the tide here extremely
rapid and endeavoring to get around a point to a bay in which the
Discovery had anchor'd, we were swept to leeward of it with great
impetuosity. We therefore let go the Stream anchor, but in bringing up,
such was the force of the tide that we parted the cable. We immediately
let go with the Bower with which we brought up. On trying the tide we
found it to be running at a rate of 5 ½ miles an hour. At slack
water we swept for the other anchor but could not get it, after several
fruitless attempts to get it we were at last obliged to leave it and
join the Discovery."
And Archibald Menzies, the naturalist of the expedition, made the
following journal entry:
" --- the Discovery with the
assistance of her boats was able to get into the East side of the
opening near the entrance where she came to an anchor at 6:00 in the
evening, while the Chatham was impelled by strong flood tides into an
opening a little more to the eastward, in which situation as neither
helm nor canvass has any power over her, all were alarmed for her
safety and anxious to hear of her fate."
On the following day Menzies journal stated:
"Next day a Boat came to us from
the Chatham when we were informed that she was at an anchor in a
critical situation at the entrance of an opening eastwards of us where
they lost their stream anchor by the force and rapidity of the tide
which ran at a rate of about five miles an hour and snapped the cable
as they were bringing up, as often as the tide slackened they used
their endeavors by every scheme they could think of to recover the lost
anchor, but without success and the loss of it was more severely felt
as is was the only one of the kind they has been supplied with."
specifically a "Proton magnetometer", can locate this anchor given the
mass and the nature of the ferrous metal, in any bottom composition.
Facts indicate - after trips to the site - that the bottom is rocky.
More likely than not, the anchor became lodged in rocks and when
tensions was taken up by the Chatham's movement in the current the mass
of the ship proved to be too much for the wedged anchor and cable to
hold. The cable parted and the anchor remains on the bottom.
ship carried other more laborious anchors but quite often the stream
anchor was the anchor of choice after a long day in unknown waters -
such luxury would be sorely missed.
It is regretful that better land references were not made of the lost
anchor's position but at the moment the critical nature and safety of
the Chatham took priority. I am sure that none of the officers or crew
would have ever imagined that 210 years later individuals would be
reviewing their journals in an effort to locate the lost anchor.
The events and journals are the proof that Vancouver's expedition
vessel Chatham lost an anchor. Charts today can be examined and with
relative ease the above information and actions can be tracked. The
information recorded in the journals give us critical clues as to the
location of the lost anchor.
The renowned shipwreck archaeologist Jim Delgato estimates the anchor's
size somewhere between 6 to 9 feet in length - a square shank and
weighing around 700 to 900 pounds. The fluke tip to tip is
approximately 3 feet and the stock was made of English Oak, most
likely, the marine wood boring organisms has consumed the stock.
For 210 years the only known artifact to have been left by Vancouver's
expedition is the lost Chatham Anchor. Its location and recovery will
stir international interest and a legal battle over ownership. In the
end, the Anchor will be preserved and be a modern reminder that we can
capture moments from the past and allow them to be enjoyed by all.
UAS has experience in locating old anchors. See (link to Commencement
bay anchor located on the UAS ole website) http://nwrain.net/~newtsuit/frames4.htm,
go to projects, Historic Anchor.
UAS (Underwater Admiralty Services) has been gathering data about the
lost anchor for over 8 years. Travel and onsite evaluations has been
the precursor for the efforts of UAS to find and return, to the legal
owner, the long Lost anchor of the Vancouver Expedition 1792.
If you have information, or want to be part of this historical effort
to locate and recovery please contact firstname.lastname@example.org