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METALLOGRAPHY 13:357-368 (1980) 357

The Met al l ography of a Wrought Iron Anchor from the Bark

Materials Research Laboratories, Defence Seience and Technology Organization, Ascot
Vale, Victoria, Australia
The met al l ography of a wrought iron anchor j et t i soned near t he Aust ral i an coast in 1770
and r ecover ed in 1971 is descri bed. Some concl usi ons are drawn about t he iron making and
forging i ndust ry of t he mid-18th Cent ury.
An accompanying paper [1] describes the metallography of several cast
iron items that were jettisoned by Lieutenant James Cook, Royal Navy
(more commonly known as Captain Cook), when the Bark Endeavour ran
aground on the Australian Great Barrier Reef in 1770. Cook lost the
smaller of his two bow anchors during his efforts to refloat the Endeavour,
and this anchor was located and recovered in 1971. The anchor when
recovered was covered with a thick layer of coral, which had protected
it well from corrosion: this coral was removed mechanically, and the
surface corrosion products so exposed were removed by electrochemical
means. The generally excellent condition of the anchor after restoration
is indicated in Fig. 1.
Three of the four stock bands were recovered with the anchor but not
the stock itself; the stock would have been made of wood and had dis-
integrated. The restored anchor shown in Fig. 1 is fitted with a modern
stock made to the standard dimensions known to have been used at the
time, and with modern stock bands made to the dimensions of those re-
covered with the anchor. The shank of the anchor was about 3.95 m long
and the span of the arms was about 2.25 m. Its original weight was marked
on the shank as being 17 hundredweight 3 quarters and 14 lb (909 kg); its
weight after restoration was 804 kg so that about 13% of the original weight
had been lost by corrosion during 200 years immersion in the sea.
The anchor is quite a large forging by any standard, but not a large
anchor for the time, since anchors weighing up to 4500 kg with a shank
El sevi er Nor t h Hol l and, Inc. , 1980 0026-0800/80/040357 + 12501.75
52 Vander bi l t Ave. , New York, NY 10017
358 L. E. Samue l s
FIG. 1. The anchor after restoration. The stock is a modern replacement, as are the four
iron bands that clamp the two longitudinal halves of the stock together. These bands were
made to the same dimensions as the original bands that were recovered with the anchor.
The stock was made to the standardized design dimensions of the time.
length of 6 m were made. It had certainly been manufactured before 1770,
but how much earlier cannot be ascertained. It can be taken, however,
to be an example of a major iron forging manufactured just before the
advent of the Industrial Revolution.
This anchor would have been fabricated from wrought iron made by
the so-called Walloon process of refining cast iron. This process was in-
troduced early in the 16th Century and dominated iron production until
about 1784, when it was replaced by the puddling process developed by
Henry Cort. In the Walloon process, the end of a pig of cast iron was
melted progressively in a charcoal-fired hearth furnace (the f i nery) , the
molten iron being allowed to trickle down past a strongly oxidizing air
blast. A semisolid mass (the loup) accumulated in the hearth of the furnace
under a slag, and this mass was then repeatedly exposed to the oxidizing
blast in the furnace until judged to be properly refined. Silicon and then
carbon were removed by preferential oxidation, but little other refining
lron Anchor from the Endeavour 359
occurred. Consequent l y, the quality of the product was determined largely
b~) that of the feed pig iron. The lumps of spongy iron finally obtained
were reheat ed in a furnace known as the chafery and kneaded to express
as much as possible of the ent rapped oxide and slag. It was then forged
into a bar, which weighted only about 20 kg. The process is descri bed in
detail in Refs. [2] and [3].
Up until 1784, when Cort ' s puddled iron became readily available, the
British Admiralty required that its anchors be manufactured from a mix-
ture of Spanish and Swedish irons. This was because British pig irons,
although well suited to castings, were known not to produce the best
product when refined by the Walioon process. Forty-five to fifty refined
bars woul d have been needed to fabricate the anchor being di scussed
here. Groups of bars had first to be forge wel ded together to form the
main units (such as the shank, arms, or palms) and these units had then
to be j oi ned also by forge welding. The British Admiralty fabricated an-
FIG. 2. A palm of the anchor after restoration. The macrostructure has been developed
during corrosion, and the individual bars from which the palm had been fabricated can be
seen. Note the remnant s of a bar welded across the back edge of the palm.
360 L. E. Samuels
chors in its own dockyards, a major anchor works being attached to the
Port smout h Dockyard. A visitor there in the mid-18th Cent ury report ed
that " s event y or eighty br awny fellows were amongst their fi res" [4].
Trip (or helve) hammers driven by a wat er wheel were available at the
time, but t hey required a copi ous supply of wat er and were limited in
power. At least some of the forging of this anchor must t herefore have
been carried out by hand. Cont emporary report s refer to a hammer,
known as " He r c ul e s , " used to forge the shank to the arms of anchors
in which a drop weight was raised by a t eam of men hauling on a rope.
The handling of the anchor during forging must have been no mean feat,
Macrostructure of the Anchor
Corrosi on of the anchor component s had occurred i nhomogeneousl y
in such a way that the grain st ruct ~t ~had been devel oped as if the anchor
had been macroet ched. The bars from different heats of iron could be
recognized, a particularly good example being shown in Fig. 2, and the
forge welds bet ween major segments of the anchor could also be located
(Fig. 3) and so the sequence of fabrication could be established.
All welds were of a simple butt or scarf type. The interesting feature
of the fabrication, however, was the procedure used to attach the arms
to the shank. This sequence, as determined from observat i on of the ma-
crost ruct ure and from radiography, is illustrated in Fig. 4. A double-ta-
F~c. 3. Two views of the throat region of the anchor after restoration. The macrostructure
developed during corrosion enables the sequence used to attach the arms to the shank to
be established.
lron Anchor from the Endeavour 361
Fl 6. 4. Model illustrating the sequence used to attach the arms to the shank of the anchor.
pered flat tang had been forged on the end of the shank, the flats being
aligned at approximately 45 to the intended axis of the shank (labeled
S in Fig. 4). A taper had been formed on one side of the end of each arm
(A) and a scarf weld made between this tapered face and one side of the
tang on the shank, one arm being welded to each side of the shank. A V-
shaped gap was thereby left at each side, because the flat on the arm
necessarily was longer than that on the shank, and this V was filled in
two stages with V-shaped pieces of iron (Vt and V2 in Fig. 4); a number
of small gaps remained, nonetheless. The result is not a strong joint either
mechanically or metallurgically, and so it is not surprising that it is re-
ported that anchors frequently failed in service at the junction between
the arm and the shank (called the throat or trend). Improvements had to
await the development of more powerful methods of forging, the invention
of the steam hammer by Nasmyth in 1842. Even then, observations on
other anchors indicate that the above general procedure was used at least
until the end of the 19th Century but that the more powerful forging ham-
mers permitted joints with a better mechanical configuration and welds
with much larger areas of overlap to be made.
The only other feature of interest was that a bar had been welded across
the back edge of each of the palms, so covering the end grain of the palm;
the remnant of this bar is visible in Fig. 2. This arrangement would have
reduced the ingress of corrosion into the back edge of the palm, and it
seems likely that this was the intent.
Microstructures of the Wrought Iron
Material sufficient for chemical analyses could be removed only from
the nut, which is a rectangular block welded onto the side faces at the
362 L. E. Samuels
end of the shank for positioning of the stock. The analysis of the material
0.10% C; 0.01% Si; 0.11% Mn; 0.005% S; 0.016% P; 0.005% N.
The sulphur and phosphorus cont ent s are bot h very low for a wrought
iron, and could have been obtained by the Walloon process only when
the feed pig had correspondingly low sulphur and phosphorus cont ent s.
It is known that English charcoal-fueled blast furnaces could produce
irons with low sulphur cont ent s but, due to the nature of the ores available,
even the best English pig irons had comparat i vel y high ( - 0. 6%) phos-
phorus cont ent s [1, 2]. The availability of ores necessary for the produc-
tion of irons with low phosphorus cont ent was the special advant age that
the Spanish and Swedi sh industries had, although the metallurgical rea-
sons certainly would not have been known at the time.
The carbon cont ent of the iron was a little higher than that which woul d
be found in a wrought iron produced by Cort ' s puddling process t and,
moreover, the results report ed bel ow show that it was variable even over
small vol umes of material. The silicon cont ent was much l ower than for
a puddl ed iron, bot h because pig irons made in the charcoal furnaces of
this time had low silicon cont ent s and because silicon was removed ef-
fectively by the Walloon refining process; there was no need, of course,
for silicon as a deoxidant. Manganese was also low, which was accept abl e
when t hes ul phur cont ent was so low.
The above anal yses are, as usual, average figures for a comparat i vel y
large vol ume of material. A section about 1 cm square was available for
mi croscopi cal examination and three bands of distinctly different struc-
ture and carbon cont ent were present within this area. In order of in-
creasing carbon cont ent , the structures of these regions were:
(i) Ferrite of moderat e grain size with some thick films of cementite
at the grain boundari es, this cementite probabl y being a degenerate
form of pearlite [Figs. 5(a) and (b)]; a moderat e number of globular
nonmetallic inclusions present; hardness 77 HV.
(ii) Ferrite of moderat e grain size with films of cementite at the grain
boundari es and a small vol ume fracture of a degenerate pearlite
[Figs. 5(c) and (d)]; a large number of elongated duplex inclusions
present; hardness 78 HV.
(iii) Ferrite of smaller grain size with a larger vol ume fracture of some-
what degenerat e pearlite [Figs. 5(e) and (f)]; very few nonmetallic
inclusions present; hardness 80 HV.
A good-quality puddl ed iron would analyze: 0.08% C, 0.10% Si, <0. 10% Mn, 0.05% S,
and 0.04% P[5].
" U O ! ~ J u o q a ~ a l e ! p a t u J a l u I ( 3 ) ' U O l ~ a a u o q a ~ ~ o q ( q ) ' H O l l O a u o q J ~ ~ o q ( ~ ) ( ' l e l ! u u t
p a q 3 1 ~ ) a o q ~ u ~ ~ q l J o l n u a q l t u o J j u ~ u ! ~ a d s ~ u ! s p u e q ~ a a q l j o s ~ J n l 3 n J l s o ~ ! ~ " ~ " ~ t d
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+ + +
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6 "
+ , ,

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m ~ o o t
+ . + .
p t I I
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t ~ 3 Z z . u a v a F u J a ~ l l ~ u . + j z v q J u V u u z I
364 L. E. Samuels
The second structure corresponds to a carbon content of about 0.1%,
the first to a slightly lower carbon content, and the third to a somewhat
higher carbon content (about 0.2%). The structures are all characteristic
of material that has been slowly cooled from above the A3 temperature
(see Fig. I1 in Ref. 6); degenerate growth of pearlite is then common in
low-carbon steels and in this instance can be attributed primarily to the
low manganese content. The hardness of the material in all three regions
was lower than that which would be found in a modern steel of the same
carbon content and structure, and also lower than would be expected in
a puddled/wrought iron. The low hardness can be attributed to the low
levels of Si, Mn, and P, and indicates that the material would be of low
The two phases in the nonmetallic inclusions, as indicated by qualitative
electron probe microanalysis, were iron oxide [light areas in Fig. 6(a)]
and a complex iron-calcium-aluminum silicate [dark background in Fig.
6(a)]. Small amounts of manganese and magnesium were also present in
both phases. This is about what is to be expected from the compositions
of typical finery slags found at archaeological sites [2], so the inclusions
can be taken to be pieces of finery slag that were not expelled in the
chaffery. However, large inclusions of the type illustrated in Figs. 5(c)
and 6(a) were rare in specimens examined throughout the anchor; in gen-
eral, expulsion of oxide and slag had been efficiently carried out in the
General etch pitting developed in the ferrite grains in all three bands
of material [Fig. 5(d)2], this pitting being characteristic of a low carbon
steel in the quench-aged condition (see Fig. 15 in Ref. 6). From this, the
following conclusions can be drawn about the final steps of the thermal
cycle to which the material had been subjected. First, as a penultimate
step, it must have been cooled fairly rapidly from about 650-700C to
retain carbon (and nitrogen) in solution, which is difficult to reconcile
with the conclusion reached earlier that the transformation of austenite
which immediately preceeded this step had occurred during compara-
tively slow cooling. Perhaps the forging was quenched after it had been
cooled partly in air after each forging stage. Second, as a final stage,
the material must have been overaged considerably to cause the degree
of etch pitting observed. If this ageing occurred during manufacture, some
tens of minutes at 150C would, for example, have been required, which
presumably could have occurred only during later forging of a remote
2 This photomicrograph has been printed more darkly than the remainder of the series,
better to show the etch pitting, but similar etch pitting was present in all of the areas illus-
lron Anchor f rom the Endeavour 365
(a) ~' ,~
2 0 / ~ m
{ i ;
\ ,
f ~ J
- /
I /
2 0 ~ m
o w. ~' ~ ~-
( c ) - " /~+. '~ " ' ~ ' + ~ 1 O 0 ~ m
FiG. 6. Microstructures of different regions of the anchor.
Etched in nital.) (a) Typical
large inclusion in the nut [cf. Fig. 5(c)]. (b) A region of high nitrogen content in the palm.
(c) A cold worked region in the palm. (d) As for Fig. 5(c).
area of the anchor; this is unlikely because, as shall later be shown, the
ferrite in all regions of the anchor showed evidence of similar overageing.
Alternatively, it is a real possibility that 200 years immersion in tropical
wat ers at 20-25C could have caused the required degree of ageing.
Apart from the sample from the nut j ust di scussed, samples for micro-
scopical examination could be obtained only by breaking off small por-
tions of the fins left bet ween the more deepl y corroded areas, and even
this was possi bl e only for the palms Most of the samples so examined
had mi crost ruct ures within the range illustrated in Fig. 5, the majority
having st ruct ures similar to that illustrated in Figs. 5(a) and (b), although
some regions were rather more coarsel y grained. Any pearlite present
366 L. E. Samuels
al ways was degenerat e, presumabl y indicating that a low manganese con-
tent was general. Et ch pitting due to quench aging could be devel oped
in all areas, although to varying degrees. Most specimens contained only
a few spherical nonmetallic inclusions.
However , unusual structures were obser ved in several regions. About
10% of the samples examined contained plates of precipitated nitrides,
an advanced exampl e being shown in Fig. 6(b). These precipitates are
indicative of a high nitrogen content, analysis of the specimen illustrated
in Fig. 6(b) indicating a nitrogen cont ent of 0.018%. Nitrogen cont ent s
of these levels are known to induce marked embrittlement. They also
result in a considerable increase in hardness, as the hardness values in
the caption to Fig. 6 indicate. The absorpt i on of nitrogen might be ex-
pect ed with the Walloon refining processes, which leads to the suspicion
that the material generally had a high nitrogen content. However , several
samples which did not contain nitride precipitates were analyzed and
found to contain nitrogen in the range 0.002-0.007%. Thus it appears that
the nitrogen cont ent of Walloon irons, although variable and occasionally
high, was frequent l y of the same order as that found in modern steels.
One region examined had been cold worked, having recei ved a cold
reduct i on of about 25% [Fig. 6(a)], which resulted in a significant increase
in hardness. It is report ed that anchors were finished by cold hammering
in the bel i ef that this i mproved corrosi on resistance, in which event only
a surface layer probabl y would have been cold worked. The first possi-
bility t herefore is that the material represent ed by Figs. 6(a) and (b) is the
remanant from such a surface layer, the col d-worked layer having been
removed from most ot her areas by corrosi on (loss in weight indicates that
an average thickness of 3 mm was lost by corrosion). The second pos-
sibility is that the forging of this particular area inadvertantly was finished
at an excessi vel y low temperature. On the whole, the latter seems to be
the more likely of the two.
The quality of the wrought iron in this anchor was inferior to that pro-
duced by the later puddling process, essentially in that it was more het-
erogenous. It generally had a slightly higher carbon content, was prone
to have a higher nitrogen content, and contained a smaller vol ume fraction
of nonmetallic inclusions. When made from appropriate pig irons, as in
the present instance, refined irons with particularly low manganese, sil-
icon, sulphur, and phosphorus cont ent s could be produced, iron which
would have had poor strength but good corrosi on resistance.
Iron Anchor from the Endeavour 367
The first skill in quality control required of a Walloon iron maker was
the selection of feed pig iron. Thereafter, the only parameter over which
he had control was carbon content, which would have been determined
by the stage at which the repeated decarburization treatments was ter-
minated. This point must have been determined by the visual judgment
of the operator, as indeed it still was with the later puddling process [5].
It seems from the evidence obtained in the present examination that
Walloon iron refineries could reduce the carbon content to below about
0.2% consistently, which is a remarkable enough achievement and raises
the question of whether any quality tests were applied to the final product.
It is known that iron puddlers used a fracture test to sort out irons that
had not been adequately decarburized [5], and it would be interesting to
know whether Walloon iron makers did likewise. This would be an im-
portant step in tracing back the applications of metallography.
The quality of these Walloon irons was certainly a considerable advance
over that of irons produced by the earlier direct-reduction processes, the
direct-reduced irons being much more heterogenous; they often contained
regions with quite high carbon contents. For example, the structures of
a number of nails made from direct-reduced iron produced somewhat
before A.D. 87 have been described by Angus et al. [7]. These irons were
much more heterogenous than those described here; the carbon content
varying from 0.1-0.8% over distances of the order of millimeters. Many
more large angular nonmetallic inclusions also were present in these nails.
Direct-reduced irons were also prone to high nitrogen contents, some of
the nails examined by Angus et al. contained nitride precipites to an even
more marked extent than the irons described here.
One of the saving graces of these early iron-making processes may well
have been the very fact that the individual heats were so small. The final
product was, in a sense, a composite which would have mitigated the
deleterious effects of those individual heats that had inferior properties.
The limitations of the Wallon process were that such small batches were
produced and that the sources of high-quality iron were limited. The cost
of the iron used in this anchor must have been very high in England, and
an indication of the emphasis placed on quality in critical applications.
This anchor did, after all, survive the trauma of hauling the Endeavour
off of a reef.
The anchor also gives an indication of the strengths and limitations of
iron forging in the mid-18th Century. Considerable skill and brute man-
power obviously was required to shape the components of this anchor,
and to make so many sound forge welds. However, the procedure that
had to be used to attach the arms to the shank is a clear indication of the
limitations of the forging hammers that were available at the time.
368 L. E. Samue l s
The as s i s t ance o f Wal t er He mmy , whos e wor k on t he det ai l s o f t he me t h o d
by whi ch t he ar ms o f t he anchor were f o r g e d to t he shank, is grat ef ul l y
ac k nowl e dge d.
Ref erences
1. L. E. Samuels. The Metallography of cast iron relics from the Bark Endeavour, Metal-
Iography 13: 345- 355 (1980).
2. R. F. Tylecote. A History of Metallurgy, The Metals Society, London (1976).
3. Leslie Aitchison. A History of Metals, MacDonald and Evans, London (1960).
4. A History of Technology, Vol. IV, (C. Singer, E. J. Holmyard, A. R. Hall and Trevor
I. Williams, Eds. Clarendon Press, Oxford (1958).
5. H. D. Ward. ' Best Yorkshire' from West Yorkshire, J. Iron Steel Aust. 210: 396-405,
6. L. E. Samuels. Optical Microscopy of Carbon Steels, American Society for Metals,
Metals Park (1980).
7. N. S. Angus, G. T. Brown, and H. F. Cleere, The iron nails from the Roman legionary
fortress at Inchtuthil, Perthshire, J. Iron Steel lnst 200:956-968 (1962).
Received April 1980.