An­chor Used by His­toric Ship Found

RCN News - - Content -

An an­chor, be­lieved to have been used by HMCS Niobe while in use as a de­pot ship in the First World War, was un­earthed at HMC Dock­yard in Hal­i­fax. HMCS Niobe was the first Canadian war­ship to en­ter Canada’s ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters, on Oc­to­ber 21, 1910, a land­mark event in the be­gin­nings of the Naval Ser­vice of Canada.

“The dis­cov­ery of one of HMCS Niobe’s (SIC) an­chors in Hal­i­fax just a week be­fore pro­claim­ing Oc­to­ber 21st to be known and cel­e­brated in the Royal Canadian Navy as Niobe Day is as­ton­ish­ing,” said Vice-Ad­mi­ral Mark Nor­man, Com­man­der of the Royal Canadian Navy. “This fan­tas­tic find­ing gives us a chance to re­flect on our col­lec­tive ac­com­plish­ments since 1910, on the val­ues in which we an­chor our ser­vice as mem­bers of the pro­fes­sion of arms, and on what is re­quired of us to en­sure we con­tinue to de­liver ex­cel­lence, both at sea and ashore, in the years to come. This is a true bless­ing and a rare op­por­tu­nity to connect the dots be­tween our fore­fa­thers and the next gen­er­a­tions of sailors of the Royal Canadian Navy.”

As fate would have it, the dis­cov­ery of the roughly 900-kilo (2000-pound) an­chor was made just days be­fore the com­mem­o­ra­tion of Niobe Day, which will from now on, be cel­e­brated an­nu­ally by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) on the 21st day of Oc­to­ber. An ex­ca­va­tion crew work­ing at HMC Dock­yard re­cov­ered an an­chor and chain buried be­neath a de­mo­li­tion site on the morn­ing of Oc­to­ber 14. The an­chor has been in­spected, as­sessed against rel­e­vant doc­u­ments and pho­to­graphs, and is now be­lieved to be that of HMCS Niobe.

The an­chor was un­earthed at for­mer Jetty 4, where Build­ing D-19, a Sec­ond World War dock­side ware­house and one of the first struc­tures at HMC Dock­yard, once stood and is now be­ing de­mol­ished. This work is part of the on­go­ing re­fur­bish­ment of HMC Dock­yard in prepa­ra­tion for the ar­rival of a new fleet of ships that will be de­liv­ered through the Na­tional Ship­build­ing Pro­cure­ment Strat­egy (NSPS) over the next decade and be­yond.

The di­men­sions of the roughly 900-kilo (2000-pound) an­chor are, 4 me­tres (13 feet) from crown to head, 4.1 me­tres (13.5 feet) across the stock, and 3.35 me­tres (11 feet) from bill to bill of the flukes. Ad­di­tion­ally, each link of the an­chor’s chain is 51 cen­time­ters (20 inches) by 28 cen­time­ters (11 inches) and weighs ap­prox­i­mately 34 ki­los (75 pounds).

While still in the process of of­fi­cially con­firm­ing this his­toric find, Mr. Richard San­der­son, Direc­tor at the Naval Mu­seum of Hal­i­fax, has in­spected the re­cov­ered an­chor and be­lieves it to have be­longed to HMCS Niobe.

The re­cov­ered an­chor is of the Ad­mi­ralty Pat­tern dat­ing back to 1850, a very large Bower or Sheet an­chor. The po­si­tion of the an­chor speaks to a par­tic­u­lar time and func­tion. The di­rec­tion of the chain links is con­sis­tent with the po­si­tion of the Niobe’s bow when em­ployed as a de­pot ship and the size is con­sis­tent with an es­ti­mated size of the links of the Niobe’s an­chor in a post-Hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion photo. While a list of stores left be­hind by the Royal Navy is not avail­able, no ves­sels in the newly formed Royal Canadian Navy were large enough for this size an­chor ex­cept for the

Niobe, or pos­si­bly the Rain­bow (based in Esquimalt, B.C.). Ad­di­tion­ally, there would have been no other use for a heavy chain and an­chor at the dis­cov­ery site, ex­cept to per­ma­nently moor a large ves­sel such as Niobe.

HMCS Niobe was an 11,000-tonne ar­mored cruiser pur­chased by Canada from the Royal Navy (RN) and com­mis­sioned on Septem­ber 16, 1910. The war­ship en­tered into Hal­i­fax Har­bour on Oc­to­ber 21, 1910, hav­ing steamed across the At­lantic from Portsmouth, Eng­land.

Upon trans­fer to the Naval Ser­vice of Canada, HMCS Niobe, along with HMCS Rain

bow, be­came the first two in a long and il­lus­tri­ous line of HMC ships and sub­marines that have served and con­tinue to serve Canada with ex­cel­lence at home and abroad.

Af­ter she was paid off, Niobe func­tioned as a de­pot ship from July 1915 un­til 1920 moored in Hal­i­fax Har­bour. The Hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion on De­cem­ber 6, 1917, pulled the ship’s con­crete em­bed­ded an­chor from the har­bour floor and dragged the ship. Once re-se­cured to Jetty 4, ad­di­tional an­chors were put in place in­clud­ing one to the shore from the stem and one from the stern. The an­chor that has been dis­cov­ered is be­lieved to be one of th­ese three bow an­chors that were used to keep Niobe in place.

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