Old anchor ‘secured buoy’
Ivan Martin of Hastings believes he has the answer to the puzzle of the West Pier anchor.
The anchor was hauled up out of the sea near the channel to Napier’s inner harbour last week and since then local historians have speculated about where it may have come from and why it was apparently dumped.
It has been suggested that it may have been one of the Montmorency’s anchors, a sailing ship which caught fire and capsized off Napier in 1867.
Another theory is that it came from one of the Admiralty ships that berthed in the inner harbour.
Captain George Gunn, who retired as Napier’s harbourmaster, initially thought the anchor could have been used to moor a buoy out in Hawke Bay. But after further deliberation he decided it was used as a dredging anchor on the Whakarire which was hired from the port of Wellington and later bought by the Hawke’s Bay Harbour Board to work on the Rangitira bank just off from West Pier.
Mr Martin believes the truth lies somewhere between Captain Gunn’s two theories.
As a youngster he recalls seeing a small suction dredge tied up at Napier and although it had stopped working the channel before he was born in 1927, it used to tie up to a buoy off one of the piers near the North British and Hawke’s Bay Freezing Works around the present site of Whakarire Avenue.
The anchor, he believes, secured the buoy.
Before the 1931 Napier Earthquake the coastline was exposed to some very heavy seas and the two lengths of joined chain hauled up with the anchor provided additional weight.
Mr Martin was employed by a fireman to shovel coal on the larger steam-powered Whakarire when it returned to Wellington for repairs.
It was towed by the Kopara which transported frozen lamb from Tokomaru Bay, Gisborne and Wairoa to Wellington – more as a safety measure than to increase the dredge’s speed as together they made only about two knots.
Mr Martin says he has no theories though, on why the anchor and its chains should have ended up on the sea floor.
Photo caption – This photograph, taken during the early part of this century, shows ships berthed at Nelson Quay, in the Iron Pot, Ahuriri. The North British and Hawke’s Bay Freezing Works plant, which stood near the present Whakarire Avenue, can be seen in the distance, in the centre of the photograph.