Salina Bay — The Place of Paul’s Shipwreck? — Part 3

Mark Gatt has suggested that Salina Bay, just to the east of Saint Paul’s Bay, is actually the place where the ship carrying the Apostle Paul, and 275 other people, ran aground and was wrecked (see below for bibliography).  Why is this?

Note Salina Bay, just the right (east) of the center of the map and also “Ancient Anchors + Artifacts.” Click on the map to Enlarge and/or Download.

To begin, Gatt writes:

Diving in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Salvino Anthony Scicluna mapped various artifacts discovered around the Maltese Islands, but he knew of so many artefacts discovered in a concentration outside Salina Bay, that he believed that this could be a shipwreck site and in fact St Paul’s shipwreck site in 60 AD. (Gatt 97)

On the map above I have noted the place of the ‘concentration of artifacts and anchors,’ mentioned by Scicluna and Gatt as “Ancient Anchors + Artifacts.”  This concentration included artifacts, amphoras, and 5 lead Roman Anchor Stocks.  This led Scicluna to think that this was the site of a shipwreck.  Among the five anchor stocks is the largest Roman Anchor Stock ever discovered. It weighs over 3.5 tons and is 13.5 feet long!  It is now on display in the Malta Maritime Museum (picture below).

The largest Roman Anchor Stock ever discovered that weighs over 3.5 tons and is 13.5 feet long!

Then, on 24 April 2005, Mark Gatt, diving in 118 feet of water, near the ‘Scicluna concentration,’ discovered a large anchor stock that was inscribed with the names of two Egyptian deities: Isis and Sarapis.  This discovery was especially noteworthy because inscribed anchor stocks are rare (but see also Hera here).  This anchor stock was about 7 feet long and weighed about 1 ton—very large indeed!

The Isis — Sarapis anchor stock discovered by Mark Gatt just north of Salina Bay. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This is a detail of the word Isis, that appears in high relief, on this anchor stock.

So what is an “Anchor Stock?”  See the following labeled picture with the typical anchor parts: flukes, shank, stock, and rope.

This is a reconstruction of a typical anchor from the Roman Period. All the parts of this “ancient anchor” are modern except the lead “Stock.”

The “Flukes” are the parts of the anchor, usually wooden and sometimes tipped with copper, that dig into the bottom of the sea. At the top of the wooden shank (right) a rope connects the anchor to the ship. The “stock” is made out of lead and often has a wood core. It helps the anchor to sink and helps to position the anchor so that the “flukes” are perpendicular to, and dig into, the sea bottom—thus securing the ship.  Very few wooden anchors have been preserved—but see below!

Mark Gatt, the discoverer of the “Isis – Serapis” anchor stock posing at a replica of the original anchor.

This replica was constructed for, and used in, the video that present Mark Gatt’s theories about the shipwreck.

Summary:

Acts 27:29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. . . .
38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea. . . .
27:40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.

Thus the area where the large anchor stocks, amphoras, and other artifacts were found (marked as “Ancient Anchors + Artifacts” on the above map) fits very well with the events described in Acts 27:28 and 38 as proposed by Mark Gatt—but not the place of the actual shipwreck (as Scicluna)!

This is a full-scale model of what the “Isis — Serapis” anchor would have looked like.

The above replica was produced and used in a video that was produced by Mark Gatt.  It is now on display at the Wignacourt Museum in Rabat, Malta.


One prominent exception to the general rule that wooden anchors have not been preserved is the “One Armed Anchor” that was discovered at the site of the Ma’agan Mikhael Shipwreck off the coast of Israel.  The 41-foot ship, from the 5th century B.C. [dated by the pottery], was very well preserved because it was buried deep in the sand and thus protected from aerobic conditions that would have degraded the wood.  Among the finds was a “One-Armed Anchor.”

A One Armed Wooden Anchor from the Fifth Century B.C.    Note the totally preserved wooden shank, stock, and fluke!  The copper on the tip of the fluke is also original! Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This one armed oak anchor was found on the starboard side of the bow of the shipwreck, attached to two ropes, the main anchor rope and trip rope.  Lead was inserted inside the anchor stock to ensure that the anchor would sink to the sea bottom with the arm downwards.  The anchor’s copper nail protected the wood from erosion.

All the wood in the anchor is original!  After excavation, it was soaked in polyethylene glycol for 7-years to help preserve it.  There is a modern metal support on the left curve support the anchor fluke.

To view nine images of the ship as displayed in the Hecht Museum in Haifa, click here.


More on Paul’s Shipwreck in the next post.


For a complete discussion of the shipwreck of Paul see Mark Gatt, Paulus The Shipwreck 60 A.D.  Second edition, 2017.  Malta: Allied Publications.

For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”

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