Cargo ship snags very old anchor in Bristol Bay

A big, rusty, old iron-and-wood anchor sitting on pallets next to a stack of shipping containers
Anchor dropped off by a cargo ship in Unalaska. (Photo by Laurelin Kruse/KUCB)

A very old anchor showed up at the dock in Unalaska on Saturday. A cargo ship accidentally pulled it up while in Bristol Bay for the salmon fishery. Now someone in Unalaska has to figure out when and where that anchor came from, and how to preserve it.

Andy Pillon is the terminal manager for the cold storage company Kloosterboer, where the anchor was dropped off on Saturday. He says the refrigerated cargo ship Orange Sea had been anchored in Bristol Bay, taking on salmon. And when it heaved up its own anchor, another one came up attached to it.

“We knew they were coming with an anchor fouled on their anchor, because that’s not unusual,” said Pillon. “We just didn’t know this would be the anchor that was coming.”

By Pillon’s estimate, the anchor weighs close to 6,000 pounds. It’s made of iron and wood, and though a few barnacles are attached here and there, it’s been well preserved by the ocean water.

When Pillon and others at the dock first researched the anchor with a quick Google search, they thought it might date back to the 1600s. Pillon has since been in touch with an expert at a maritime salvage company who, at first glance, said the anchor likely dates somewhere closer to 1850.

No one from the salvage company was available for an interview on Thursday.

Pillon says the anchor is a piece of history and wants to preserve and showcase it here in Unalaska.

“We became the custodians of a really neat maritime artifact,” said Pillon. “So let’s take care of it. We’ll put it somewhere around here [where] people can come to look at it. And hopefully, in that process, we’ll learn more about it.”

For now, Pillon says the anchor is going back in the water. He was told by a preservation expert that’s the best way to keep it in shape until he can make plans to preserve it on land. After all, the water has kept this anchor intact for more than a century already.

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