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An anchor from another era

The relic found in Santa Monica Bay is believed to date back 100 years, when the area held a major port.

November 19, 2009|Baxter Holmes

Lifeguard Andrew Greger was making a routine training dive off the Santa Monica coast three weeks ago when something in the water caught his eye.

At the bottom of the ocean, about two miles north of the Santa Monica Pier, he found a massive ship's anchor covered in rust, seaweed and sea-floor growth.

Greger knew the area had been a major shipping port a century ago. But he was surprised to find the anchor in such good condition.

"It's not every day you find something like that," said Greger, a rescue boat captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department Lifeguard Division.

On Tuesday, with the help of a tractor from the city of Santa Monica and several float bags, the relic was pulled out of the ocean.

"The entire anchor is intact and it appears to be an anchor from one of those tall ships in the 1800s that used to dock here," said Central Section Chief Mickey Gallagher, who leads the underwater recovery unit. "It's remarkably in good condition."

The anchor, about 6 feet wide and 6 feet tall, is definitely of a different age. It has two flukes and a large shank. It is also covered with substantial growth, indicating it has been resting on the sea floor for many decades.

"It's a piece of history," Gallagher said. "It's probably 100 years old."

The anchor was found two miles up the coast from the pier and about a quarter-mile offshore -- the same area where Long Wharf once stood.

Built in 1892 by railroad tycoon Collis P. Huntington, Long Wharf was once a premier shipping center and tourist attraction. For a while, it was considered the longest wharf in the world, jutting nearly a mile into the bay.

Huntington wanted to make Santa Monica the region's main shipping port. But after much political wrangling, San Pedro won out. The Santa Monica port was eventually demolished.

"The anchor was somewhat surprising, but it makes sense," said Lee Davis, a county rescue boat captain. "There's a number of anchors down there."

Gallagher said they've found other debris in the area that is likely from the Long Wharf era, but nothing like this.

"If I was a betting man, I'd say it was an anchor used on one of the tall ships that dropped off goods or whatever was being dropped off here," he said.

The anchor is now resting in a garden at a Los Angeles County lifeguard station.

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baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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