A recent article and photo in the Seattle Times revealed the discovery of a large anchor near Whidbey Island that may have been lost from the HMS Chatham in 1792.

The “may have” refers to a controversy about the location of the anchor. Most historians have believed that the Chatham lost its anchor somewhere farther north. Log books show that an anchor was indeed lost from the Chatham at that time, but the location was assumed to be in Bellingham Channel, about 30 miles from the mystery anchor.

HMS Chatham anchor? 

The Chatham was an armed tender for Vancouver’s Discovery, and if this anchor is actually from that ship, it would be a significant, tangible link to an expedition that literally put the Pacific Northwest on the map.

Apparently we won’t know for sure until the anchor is raised and examined. At the moment, it’s still stuck in the bottom somewhere off the northwest side of Whidbey Island. According to the article, the finders, who discovered the anchor in 2008, intend to raise it this spring and have it cleaned and inspected. Perhaps there will be marks that positively identify it.

But if not, we’ll still be wondering about an old, 9-foot-long anchor that had to have been dropped by some ship back in the day. If not the Chatham, then what?

As one interested in maritime history and a resident of Whidbey Island (which was named for Joseph Whidbey, an officer on the Discovery during its exploration of the Pacific Northwest), I asked Laura James, the underwater photographer, just where, exactly, the anchor was found.

Can’t tell you, she said. Sworn to secrecy.

OK, fine. I’ll wait until it’s raised and revealed. Should be fascinating.

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).