It takes a team effort to pull in a 6,000-pound anchor. Lending a hand were Nina Vickers of Hawthorne Cove Marina in Salem, underwater videographer Stephen Galperin, diver Mehmet Mandalinci, dive boat owner Jeff Hannigan, and diver Michael Miller.
The Salem News / Kirk Williamson
DANVERS - "A lot of scuba divers bring up artifacts from sunken
ships, but nothing this size," said Faith Ortins of Beverly, co-owner
of Northeast Scuba.
"It's not one of the prettiest things, but it is one of the biggest," added Michael Miller of Danvers, a diver.
What Miller and three other local divers brought up on Saturday was a 13-foot, 6,000- pound anchor, encrusted with scale and barnacles, from the British freighter City of Salisbury, which sank on Graves Ledge, about 14 miles off Nahant, 57 years ago.
The divers hauled the anchor into Salem Harbor, then trucked it to the Northeast Scuba office on Liberty Street in Danvers, across from Popes Landing.
The ship, which had sailed from India, was carrying an unusual cargo, including many exotic animals - birds, monkeys, pythons and cobras - besides rubber and jute.
To divers, it became known as "the zoo wreck," according to the book "New England's Legacy of Shipwrecks" by Henry Keatts.
It had struck an uncharted ledge and run aground, sinking a few feet onto the pinnacle of rock on which it sat.
The 56-man crew escaped, but not the animals. When a much decomposed python, washed ashore later, some suspected it was a sea serpent, according to Keatts' book.
For several months the ship sat on the ledge in the water, with charter boats running tourists to "the zoo wreck."
Eventually the ship broke up, however, and pieces of it were scattered over the ocean floor.
"It's a popular diving site," Miller said, but "the scattered remains are pretty well pulverized and spread out over a large area."
It was Jeff Hannigan of Tewksbury, owner of the diving vessel Depth Charge, who found the anchor nearly 60 feet below the surface.
He convinced Miller, Stephen Galperin of Marblehead and Mehmet Mandalinei of Methuen to help him float the anchor to the surface.
Work began Friday.
Using five rubber bags that each provide 1,000 pounds of buoyancy, the divers managed to get the anchor almost, but not entirely, to the surface.
With the weather turning bad, the divers dropped the anchor back into the water, but only 35 feet deep this time. Ortins drove to Providence to pick up another bag, to add another 2,000 pounds of buoyancy.
The effort was successful Saturday, and the small Depth Charge towed the floated anchor into Salem Harbor.
The trip out was only an hour, but it took eight hours to bring the anchor back to shore.
"She's a proud little tug - well, not a tug, but close," said Miller.
Ortins noted the 13-foot anchor is one foot longer than the boat and 2,000 pounds heavier.
It took some time for the boat and its salvage to make it into the Hawthorne Cove Marina. The boat was difficult to maneuver as it towed the heavy anchor.
"It was like a mine field of moorings" coming through the harbor, Miller said.
But that was "part of the adventure," said Ortins, who praised the cooperation of everyone involved: Northeast Scuba, Hawthorne Cove Marina and Riverview Landscape Construction of Middleton.
The last two companies cooperated in getting the anchor to Danvers: Hawthorne hauled the anchor out of the water and Riverview drove it to Liberty Street, using a dump truck to tow the anchor on a trailer.
The trip through downtown Salem streets drew some stares Monday morning, they noted.
"Wreck divers," noted Miller, "have this strange disease. They like bringing junk home, (although) not everyone needs an anchor in their back yard."
This "junk," however, will be put on display. After letting it dry out, Miller said he would hammer out the scale (loose, flaking rust), then sandblast it, mostly to "knock off the edges."
Then it will be painted and preserved, Ortins said, "so everyone else can look at it."