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Discovery of Wells Anchor

In the summer of 2015 North Norfolk Divers were asked by Wells harbour master, Robert Smith, if they could conduct a search for a lost mooring, this being for the outer cardinal buoy that had become detached from its moorings earlier in the year during a period of bad weather. On the instruction of Robert Smith, a team from North Norfolk Divers set about the task of locating the mooring at the position given, this being in the general vicinity of the newly positioned outer cardinal buoy. After extensive searches of the area, both underwater and with the use of the club’s boat, Norfolk Hero’s sounder, the mooring could not be located. It can therefore only be assumed, that the old mooring is now buried beneath the sand.

Whilst the search for the mooring had proved to be one of a fruitless nature, it was decided by the team to investigate a mark they had been given by a local fisherman, this being within the port limits.

During the summer of 2015, the Special Projects Section of North Norfolk Divers had been investigating aircraft losses in the area. To this date the flying fortress 42-29752, being one of the losses included in their investigations, ( please see under Special Projects Section for full details of discovery and identification of 42-29752). The hope with regards to the mark now to be investigated after the search for the mooring, was that it may in fact be associated with another lost aircraft in the area that the SPS had been investigating, this being a Lancaster bomber, serial number R5558, lost on the 14th of July 1942.

On arrival at the position given by the fisherman, it was not long before Norfolk Hero’s sounder had picked up something on the sea bed and the shot line had been dropped in. With spirits running high, the team were soon in the water and descending the shot line. On arrival at the sea bed, it was soon to become evident that the team were not looking at wreckage of a ditched Lancaster, but in fact a magnificent oak stocked anchor.

On the team’s return to Wells harbour, team member and Wells harbour administrator, Louise de Lisle, reported the teams findings to the Wells harbour master, Robert Smith. Due to the anchors position within Wells harbour, Robert Smith deemed the newly discovered anchor to be a hazard to navigation and asked North Norfolk Divers if they would be prepared to assist in the recovery of the anchor. Within a week of the team’s discovery a meeting had been set up between NND and the Wells Harbour Master’s Authority in order to formulate a plan for the anchors recovery. It was decided that NND would tie a buoyed strop around the anchors crown and that the Wells Harbour Authority would at a later date, when weather and tides allowed, lift the anchor and bring it into Wells harbour.

Recovery of Wells Anchor

On the 31st October 2015, the port of Wells vessel, Frank T and North Norfolk Divers rib, Norfolk Hero, along with staff from Wells harbour office, led by harbour master Robert Smith and a support team from North Norfolk Divers went out to lift the anchor. The Frank T is a 14mtr steel hulled multipurpose vessel with a 10 tonne carrying capacity. Equipped with a 9 tonne crane and bow ramps, she is ideally suited for such salvage operations.

With sea conditions and weather favourable, both Frank T and Norfolk Hero departed the harbour at 7.30am. With Norfolk Hero arriving on site first, the team from NND set about ensuring the buoy and strops they had secured to the anchor a couple of weeks prior were still sound and secure. With Frank T now on site, she positioned herself and made ready for the job in hand. With the marker buoy taken on board and the slack of the strop taken up, the Frank T began the task of lifting the anchor.

In total, it took three consecutive lifts with the onboard Palfinger crane, each staged lift measuring approximately 5mtrs. When the lifting strops were checked off with a snubber line, so as to hold the anchor while a new lifting bite was taken by the crane, a reading of approximately 3 tonnes lifting weight was shown. At 08.45, and with great relief, the crown of the anchor broke surface for the first time in what could be at least 150 years.

NND and WHC are at present working on a joint project to investigate the possibility of preserving the anchor and positioning it on permanent display on the Wells quayside, with a dedication to all the seafarers who have lost their lives in the North Sea. The anchor is yet to be dated but is believed to be from the 1830s.

Presently the anchor is situated in a safe area within the harbour, this being alongside the jubilee beacon opposite the Wells harbour office.

Louise De Lisle

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