Tag Archives: Anchor Stock

Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta — Casting The Anchors and Dinghy

Acts 27:27 . . . about midnight the sailors began to surmise that 1they were approaching some land. 28 And they took soundings, and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak.

The captain and sailors on Paul’s ship found themselves in a very dangerous situation that called for a desperate measure—the casting of the “storm anchors” into the raging sea.

Please note, that under normal circumstances (relatively calm harbors) they would use “composed anchors” to secure the ship.

Two Composed Anchors on display in the Hecht Archaeological Museum in Haifa, Israel. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

A “Composed Anchor” is made out of a large chiseled stone and has at least three holes in it. A rope was tied in the upper hole—to lower and hoist the anchor—and wooden stakes were inserted into the two lower holes in order to grip the sea bottom. These anchors weighed between 45 and 170 pounds and could be lowered and hoisted by one or two seamen.  This type of anchor was used from the late second millennium BC on.  Please note that this type of anchor would not be able to secure the large Alexandrian Grain Ship in a raging sea!

Acts 27:40 “And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea.

These four anchors were very large and were “storm anchors.”  The “Isis – Sarapis” anchor stock found by Mark Gatt would be an example of this (as would the 3.5-ton anchor stock discovered in the same general area).

A replica of the “Isis – Sarapis” anchor discovered by Mark Gatt.

In this area please note that five “storm anchor” stocks were found that weighed 200, 489, 117, 500 pounds and the 3.5-ton stock plus the massive “Isis Sarapis” stock (Gatt p. 98 citing Scicluna).  These types of anchors were very heavy and were the last hope of securing a ship during a storm—both because of their weight and especially being fastened to the sea bottom.  But, once the storm anchors were cast overboard, and they were once secured on the seabed, they could not be lifted back on board, so they had to be abandoned!  As Acts 27:40 says, “And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea.

On the map note “Ancient Anchors.” This is where Scicluna noted all the relevant anchor stocks.  They had been abandoned as described above.

Acts 27:29 “they cast four anchors from the stern

The bow of a cargo ship with two “storm anchors” secured in place.

On this model the huge storm anchors are lashed onto the bow of the boat, ready to be deployed in a storm.  Under normal circumstances, the anchors would be lowered from the bow (see photo above) to secure the ship.  This would mean that the bow would be facing the oncoming waves because that would be the best way to deflect the waves and to ride out the storm.

But Acts 27:29 says they were lowered from the stern!  Gatt graphically describes how he thinks they were lowered and then the sailor had to quickly run, with ropes in hand, to secure them to the stern of the boat.  Gatt credits the wisdom of the captain in doing this, for this meant that the bow of the boat was facing the shore and it would be much easier to run it aground—once the time had come to abandon the storm anchors!

Acts 27:29 And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the 1rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. 30 And as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship, and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the aropes of the ship’s boat, and let it fall away

A sarcophagus that has a sailing ship and its “dinghy” engraved in bas relief.  The projection on the bow of the boat, on the left, may be a SSS sail, OR it might be a representation of a “storm anchor” with its anchor stock.

In the archaeological museum in Sinope Turkey, on the Black Sea, is a sarcophagus that has a sailing ship and its “dinghy” engraved in bas relief.  Behind it there is a small vessel, with a sail, that may be in tow.  Might this be a “dinghy” like the one described in Acts 27:30?

The Apostle Paul, and companions, may have sailed on such vessels. Note the steering oars at the stern of the ship, the billowing mainsail and what looks like a jib (Gatt, p. 18 calls this an “artemon”) near the bow of the boat—or could this represent a storm anchor with its anchor stock? Even the guy-lines are visible in the image.  An inscription on the sarcophagus reads: “Cornelius Arrianus is lying here. His age is 60.”

A line drawing of the bas relief on the sarcophagus in the museum in Sinope.

Alternatively, note that the “dinghy” has a  billowing sail and thus might be a second ship that is being depicted as being in the distance—and thus is smaller than the nearer vessel.


For information on our April/May 2022 trip to Malta, Sicily, and Italy Click Here.

For a complete discussion of the shipwreck of Paul see Mark GattPaulus 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?”

Salina Bay — The Actual 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?”

Ship Names — Paul’s Shipwreck—Part 3

In two previous posts I shared some images and thoughts on anchor stocks that are in the Malta Maritime Museum.  The final anchor stock that I want to mention is one that actually has Isis—the name of an Egyptian Deity—inscribed on it.

The name “Isis” is clearly visible on the left side of this anchor stock.

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

Isis, an Egyptian deity, was a name (among others) commonly used for ships during the Roman Era.  There was a very famous ship called Isis that is mentioned by the ancient author Lucian that was about 180 feet long, 45 feet wide (beam), and 45 feet deep—I am not saying that this is an anchor stock from that ship, but it is interesting that the name appears here.

In his book Πλοἶον ἢ Εὐχαί (“The Ship, or The Wishes”) the sophist Lucian described the Isis when he saw it in Athens’ seaport Piraeus:

I say, though, what a size that ship was! 180 feet long, the man said, and something over a quarter of that in width; and from deck to keel, the maximum depth, through the hold, 44 feet. And then the height of the mast, with its huge yard; and what a forestay it takes to hold it! And the lofty stern with its gradual curve, and its gilded beak, balanced at the other end by the long rising sweep of the prow, and the figures of her name-goddess, Isis, on either side. As to the other ornamental details, the paintings and the scarlet topsail, I was more struck by the anchors, and the capstans and windlasses, and the stern cabins. The crew was like a small army. And they were saying she carried as much corn as would feed every soul in Attica for a year. And all depends for its safety on one little old atomy of a man, who controls that great rudder with a mere broomstick of a tiller!

(Wikipedia Isis (ship)

Please note that from Malta Paul sailed to Rome on:

Acts 28:11    After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.
[Two Greek Deities]

In addition, I found another inscribed anchor stock in the Museo Nazionale in Reggio, this time with the name Hera on it.

An anchor stock in the Museo Nazionale in Reggio (Italy) with the name Hera on it.

Hera was believed to be the wife of the chief deity ZeusReggio is located in southern Italy, on the coast facing Sicily.  Reggio is considered to be ancient Rhegium.

Acts 28:11    After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island [=Malta]. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.

Detail of the name “Hera”—in reverse order—on the anchor stock.

To view images of items on display in the Malta Maritime Museum check here.

The Largest Anchor Stock — Paul’s Shipwreck—Part 2

In my earlier post, I wrote of the 11 Anchor Stocks that are currently in storage at the Malta Maritime Museum—and I described how they worked.

Among the 11 is the largest ancient anchor stock ever to be discovered!

This is the largest anchor stock ever found — near Salina Bay where the ship that Paul was on was wrecked.

This anchor stock weighs over 5,500 lbs [2,500 kg.] and is 13 ft. 6 in. long [4.1 m.].  A careful look at the left end of the anchor shows that it was not solid metal, but had a metal shell that encased a wood “soul.” (see below for what is an “anchor stock”)

Compare the size of the woman to that of the anchor stock — 13 ft. 36 in. long!

Gordon Franz (see below) quotes the Museum Archaeological Report that this “enormous Roman anchor stock [was] found lying on the seabed 120 feet below the surface 300 yards off Qawra Point….” [CR=near Salina Bay]. It is dated from “the second half of the second century BC to the middle of the first century AD.” It “… most likely came from an Alexandrian grain ship” [CR: like the one Paul was being transported on? Acts 27:6, 27–29].  It should be remembered that the large “Alexandrian” grain ships could be 180 feet long! — Paul traveled on two Alexandrian grain ships (Acts 27:6; 28:11)

It was discovered near Salina Bay, on the NE coast of Malta.  This is near two of the bays that are “traditional” candidates for the site of the shipwreck of Paul (Acts 27—28:10).


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?”