Since opening its door on July 1, 1989, the Texas Maritime Museum entrance has been identified by a large folding stock anchor. On Tuesday, August 22, 2017 another anchor will greet visitors at the “Official Maritime Museum for the State of Texas.”
The Byers & Sunderland stockless anchor will be placed on the concrete at the northeast corner of the museum property near the lighthouse addition. This Byers anchor was lost sometime after its manufacturing date (1931) and was recovered approximately 98 miles offshore of Louisiana in 2015, during offshore oil and gas site clearance operations on behalf of McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC. Site clearance is a requirement of all offshore oil and gas companies and is regulated by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Performing site clearance ensures that debris from oil and gas operations are not left behind once a company has completed all of its activities. This anchor is an isolated find and not associated with any shipwreck nor is it associated with oil and gas development. McMoRan recovered this piece of ground tackle and, working with BSEE, transferred it to Texas A&M University’s Conservation Research Laboratory where it underwent conservation.
This stockless anchor has some interesting markings on its flukes. On the left fluke is a diamond with the words “W.L. Byers & Co. Ltd. of Sunderland” around it while the right fluke has a raised circle and a square set swastika cast into the center of the fluke. William Lumsden Byers, who owned an anchor and chain manufacturing company in Sunderland, England, first applied for and received a patent for this stockless anchor in 1887 and again with improvements in 1890. Byers anchors were manufactured in many different sizes and weights depending on the needs of the ship.
Byers, an avid reader, was fascinated with the archaeological work conducted at what was thought to be the ancient city of Troy during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Under the direction of Heinrich Schliemann, the excavations produced numerous artifacts, including pottery and sculptures that had a series of spindle-whorls or swastikas. The swastika itself is not an unusual symbol and has been found in archaeological contexts throughout the world. As Schliemann’s work became public and archaeological discoveries associated with famous Homeric sites (ca. 1100 BC) such as Troy were announced, symbols such as the swastika grew more prominent and were used by people as a representation of good luck or good fortune. Over time, the use of this symbol grew, and appeared on various products including Coca-Cola bottles, scouting materials, American military uniforms and a multitude of other items. Byers likewise placed a swastika on the right fluke of the anchor to represent good luck.
Over time, the swastika took on a new meaning and was tied to the wave of nationalism that spread across Germany beginning in 1920. Once the swastika was embraced by Germany’s Nazi Party, W.L Byers & Co. Ltd., discontinued the use of the swastika as a symbol on the fluke of the stockless anchor.
Crevalle Management Services of Needville, Texas will be handling the transportation and installation of this interesting artifact on the morning of Tuesday, August 22nd. The public is welcome to witness this installation. Interpretive signage will be mounted near the anchor, providing visitors with the story behind the markings.
The Texas Maritime Museum would like to thank the following organizations for their hard work in securing, and restoring this valuable artifact including the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the Texas A&M Conservation Research Lab, Crevalle Management Services, and McMoRan Oil & Gas, LLC.