Betsy’s mysterious anchor

Some of the granite islands in eastern Georgian Bay have sand beaches, mostly small, which make ideal swimming areas especially for children. But for real beachcombing the large outer islands — Christian, Hope, Beckwith and the Giant’s Tomb — are ideal. These are just over the geographic line separating the sandy soil and deciduous woodlands from the rocky pine-clad pre-Cambrian Shield islands extending northward and easterly.

Giant’s Tomb Island with its three miles of almost entirely sand beach along its east shore, was the closest of these big ones to us at Wahnuhke. As children, a picnic or fishing trip to the Tomb was reason for excitement. As teenagers, that enthusiasm didn’t diminish. A summer picnic to that island’s beach was a popular outing

In August, 1957, a group of us including my cousin Betsy and our friend Marion McLeod (see A hidden Birdland) were beachcombing in the shallows near the south end of the Giant’s Tomb. We weren’t actually looking for hidden treasure, but suddenly Betsy’s foot struck something hard in the underwater sand.

As I recall, there weren’t many loose rocks along that stretch of beach so it was unlikely that’s what Betsy’s toe was stubbed by. This required a closer look, so we bent down and started clearing sand from the area. Eventually this revealed a long piece of thick metal. We dug further and found a large metal ring attached to the first piece. An anchor! A large anchor. We dug further until a fluke appeared in the yellow sand.

We were excited now about this find, and kept digging until we could get numerous hands around the shank and gradually pull the anchor out. We held it up and Marion took this picture:

That anchor sat beside the big granite fireplace in the Hegnauer cottage on the south end of Wahnuhke for more than 30 years until the property was sold. It now rests in Marion’s cottage across the channel.

The east shore of the Giant’s Tomb is sheltered from the open Bay where winds from the west prevail. From the mid-19th Century to the early 20th, the channel passing the island was heavily used by sailing vessels and steamers of all sizes. When westerlies picked up and waves grew higher, probably skippers of the smaller of these took shelter behind the Tomb.

Betsy’s anchor may have been from one of them. Why it was lost and left there is a mystery. The anchor line broke? It was hurriedly cut when something threatened the vessel? It was found in very shallow water, so maybe it was rowed closer to shore for better holding?

We will never know, so the mystery of Betsy’s anchor continues.

Footnote: A large part of the Giant’s Tomb today is included in Awenda Provincial Park on the adjacent mainland. Parts of the north end are a nature preserve of the Georgian Bay Land Trust.

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