222 years to the day: Pair plan this week to fetch old anchor that could be off Vancouver ship
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Scott Grimm, left, and Doug Monk will set out from Port Townsend on Monday to hoist an 18th-century anchor out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the hopes of proving it is the anchor that in 1792 snapped off the HMS Chatham, companion ship to Capt. George Vancouver’s HMSDiscovery, which explored the Salish Sea. —Photo by Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
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British National Portrait Gallery
Capt. George Vancouver
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This illustration from Capt. George Vancouver's 1801 book, "A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean and Around the World," shows HMS Discovery listing after hitting rocks in Fife Sound off British Columbia in 1782. The HMS Chatham is in the background.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND –– Hoping to disprove decades of conventional wisdom, Doug Monk and Scott Grimm will lead an expedition Monday to retrieve an anchor they believe to be lost off Whidbey Island during Capt. George Vancouver’s HMS Discovery expeditions of the late 18th century.

“It’s the only piece of evidence — of hard evidence — that Vancouver was here,” said Grimm of the anchor destined to be displayed in Port Townsend.

Monk of Port Angeles and Grimm, who lives in Seattle, will set out 222 years to the day after the anchor snapped free from the HMS Chatham on June 9, 1792.

The anchor has been sought by maritime and history experts for decades.

It was reported lost in the log books and journals kept by the crew of the Chatham, which accompanied Capt. Vancouver’s Discovery, both ships that spent four years exploring the North American west coast beginning in 1791.

After it is pulled up, the anchor is expected to be brought into Port Townsend by about 4 p.m. Monday.

Port of Port Townsend crews will help transfer it from the boat to a saltwater tank at the Northwest Maritime Center.

It will be displayed there for a few weeks before being shipped to Texas A&M for preservation and analysis.

For decades, researchers have believed the anchor drifted into Bellingham Channel.

But Monk, who has a diverse slate of business interests, discovered an antique 9-foot-long anchor, estimated to weigh 900 pounds, while diving for sea cucumbers off the west coast of Whidbey Island in January 2008.

He spoke with his boss at the time, who suggested it could be the Chatham’s anchor.

So Monk consulted George Cotsell’s A Treatise on Ships’ Anchors, an 1856 anthology of anchor designs, and decided his find matched the design of the Chatham anchor.

That touched off years of researching tidal records, ship logs and English patent law in an attempt to prove the Bellingham Channel theory wrong.

“For 70 years, everybody thought it was in Bellingham Channel,” Grimm said.

“Everybody. Everybody,” Monk emphasized.

“But nobody had done original research. They simply regurgitated what everybody other historian had said,” Grimm said.

The Chatham set off from Point Partridge on Whidbey Island in the early morning hours of June 9.

“They got out here, the tide changed on them, they lost wind, and the theory is they got sucked into Admiralty Inlet at 5½ knots,” Grimm said.

“And they lost the anchor. The chain snapped off.”

Experts believed the currents carried the anchor north into Bellingham Channel, but it has never been found there.

“There were multiple expeditions to find this with magnetometers and with side-scan sonar, and they came up with absolutely nothing ­— multiple times,” Grimm said.

Monk still believed the anchor he found was the Chatham’s and began the process of taking ownership to pull it up and prove it.

But he was stumped when he discovered that the cross-link design of the chain that attached the anchor to the boat wasn’t patented until 1813.

Meanwhile, Grimm, a medical equipment salesman and amateur historian from Seattle, heard about Monk’s anchor over lunch with a mutual friend.

Grimm and Monk finally met in 2010 after Grimm had begun to research the anchor’s history.

He began to rethink the chain’s age after watching the 2003 nautical drama movie “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.”

“It just struck me that that just wasn’t the way things happened in the Industrial Revolution,” Grimm said.

“People experimented with stuff and used it because it worked, and then somebody would come along and patent it.”

In fact, documents from the English patent court that issued the cross-link chain patent noted that the design was not original and had been in use for decades.

“And we were back in business,” Grimm said.

So they re-upped their efforts to bring the anchor above water and have its history resolved.

Next month, Texas A&M University researchers will spend the next one to three years preserving the anchor and hopefully determine its age and origin.

“Which’ll be nice,” Monk said. “I can go back to work and make some money.”

Grimm worries that two centuries of underwater corrosion and buildup will have decayed away any stamps or identifying markers.

“Which wouldn’t necessarily solve anything,” he said. “But if this isn’t the anchor, then show me where it is in Bellingham Channel.

“Also, if this isn’t the anchor, it begs the question: What’s an 18th-century anchor doing out here?”

If the anchor is proven to be the one from the Chatham, which Peter Puget later captained, Grimm and Monk will have bragging rights and will have unearthed one of the most significant pieces of Pacific Northwest history.

“We will have changed history. We will have proven that the anchor wasn’t lost and that sometimes, all it takes is a fresh look at things,” Grimm said.

If not, the two will still have invested tens of thousands of dollars into a new friendship.

“Does it change our lives?” Grimm asked. “To some extent. Doug and I have become pretty good friends through all this.”

Said Monk: “That’s probably the best thing we’ve got out of it.”

“It really is,” Grimm agreed. “ ’Cause we’ve put everything else — our money, our time, our emotions — into this.”


Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 07. 2014 6:28PM
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