The Cayman Islands Postal Service released a set of stamps titled Anchors. This stamp issue features the anchors of local shipwrecks, illustrates the type of ship and provides a brief background of the circumstances of the sinking and the location. The stamps highlight the anchors of the Mathusalem (20c), Topsy (25c), Inga (25c), Tofa ($1.50), Glamis ($2). Anchors are an important detail because they are useful in identifying the size of a ship, since there is a specific scale of size to weight ratio between ships and their anchors. They also assist in identifying the date when a ship was built.
20c The Mathusalem was a wooden bark built in 1868 by Giuseppe Tonello at his private shipyard in Trieste, Italy. A merchant vessel (used to transport cargo and passengers), she was 140 ft long, weighed 537 tons and was lost in 1893, 25 years after being built, at East End, Grand Cayman. In fact, the Mathusalem’s wreckage is amongst a number of other ships’ remains including the Glamis, Maribelle, Otto Lee and possibly the Belle of the Clyde in the same area at East End. Her anchors and piles of chains lie on the reef crest, jettisoned in attempts to lighten the load of the stricken ship.
25c The Inga, originally called the Peter Denny, was a three-masted, full-rigged ship with accommodation for 300 to 400 passengers. She was built in Scotland by John Duthie and Sons in 1865 and had a reputation as a fast ship. The Peter Denny was 197 ft long and had a 34ft beam and a depth of 20 ft. She weighed 998 gross tons. In 1883/1884 the Peter Denny was sold to L. Larsen of Sandefjord, Norway and was renamed Inga. On 17 September 1888, the Inga came to her demise off the south coast when she ran aground near Old Isaacs, East End and where her two anchors are located, one of which is completely submerged.
25c The Topsy, foundered near the Buccaneer harbor, northwest Cayman Brac on 15 February 1890. She was caught at the end of unloading her cargo and was unable to pull her massive anchor up in time to set sail around the western point of Cayman Brac to the safety of the south shore. The Topsy was a wooden bark, 89.2 ft long and weighed 139 tons. It was built by John Walsh and William Douglas on Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1853. The main anchor of the Topsy is in 40ft of water at the very popular dive site known as Buccaneer. Her main anchor is used to tether the mooring buoy for the dive site, with the rest of the stricken ship’s remains scattered along the mini wall and in the shallows. This is perhaps the most popular of the shallow diving and snorkeling sites found around the shores of Cayman Brac.
$1.50 The Tofa was built in 1891 by A. Sewall & Co in the New England region of the United States. A wooden ship of teak and birch, she had a bridge deck (the upper deck where the captain stands and from whichthe ship is steered), with another deck below. Weighing in at 631 gross tons and measuring 172 ft in length, her beam was 35ft and with a draft of 13ft she was able to carry 378 tons of cargo below deck. The Tofa was driven ashore in bad weather in September 1915. Along the south shore of Little Cayman Island and east of Owen Island, offshore at Rocky Point, lie the Tofa‘s anchors, ribs and stays.
$2 The Glamis was one of 21 ships built by Alexander Stephen and Sons Limited of Dundee Shipbuilding Company in 1876. She was a three-masted iron and steel barque (so described of any vessel with a particular type of sail-plan). This comprises three (or more) masts, fore-and-aft sails on the aftermost mast and square sails on all other masts. The Glamis weighed 1,232 gross tons, was 225.3 ft long with a depth of 21.9 ft and a beam of 34.8 ft. She was fitted with two decks with cemented bulkheads. The Glamis struck the reef off Grand Cayman’s East End on 14th August 1913. Her anchor is just part of the massive amount of well-broken up remains of this steel ship which litters the shallow reef at the northeast end of Grand Cayman (Colliers Channel opposite the Reef Resort).
These images were reproduced by kind permission of Mr. Lawson Wood. Some of the anchors are also featured in Mr. Wood’s definitive book Shipwrecks of the Cayman Islands: A Diving Guide to Historical and Modern Shipwrecks (2004), which was also a source for the historical information.