In last month's article, I continued the story of my search for the other anchors from Paul's shipwreck, the ones which remained on the ship when it crashed on the reef as described in Acts 27, and I began to recount my interview with the man who located two ancient anchors inside the Munxar Reef on Malta.
[In the June 2003 issue of Personal UPDATEI recounted the search and discovery of the four anchors that were "cast from the stern" during the storm (Acts 27:29).]
The Munxar Reef trailed out to sea a mile and a half. The four anchors were dropped at the outer tip of the reef and the ship then sailed toward the bay, but they first had to go through the waves crashing over the Munxar. In other words, one could reasonably expect to find at least two additional Roman-style anchors (stored in the bow) in much shallower water closer to shore, between where the four anchors were deployed and the fatal reef that ultimately shredded and sank the ship.
After the man told me he had found two anchors in about ten meters (30 feet) of water, I pulled a nautical map from my pocket and asked him to pinpoint the exact location.
"It was eight years ago," he said, "but I know it was definitely in the inner part of the Munxar."
The place he pointed to on the map lay about two hundred or three hundred feet from the spot where I had earlier estimated Paul's ship crashed on the reef. From the site where the four anchors were cut loose on the outer Munxar, it sat a little over three thousand feet in toward the shore in a direct line on the inner reef. Most importantly, he said he found the two anchors at the shallow break in the Munxar Reef, known today as the Munxar Pass. This "pass" would have been the ship's only chance of survival in its desperate attempt to make it to the bay, which was just beyond the inner reef. So it made sense that the sailors would have tried to sail to shore through the small slit in the reef.
His story squared with the rough calculations I had made two nights earlier. I listened in earnest as the man told me he had heard of my speaking in churches about the Bible; he said he had come offering the information solely to assist in my efforts to tell the whole story.
"When I heard about all of your research, and how the Munxar lay where the two seas meet," he continued softly, "I couldn't help thinking how all those scholars, all those experts, deciding years ago that the shipwreck occurred in St. Paul's Bay. And they are wrong. I believe you have found the true location of the shipwreck of Paul. I don't know if what I'm telling you will help you or not, but I'm giving you this information, wanting nothing in return." He paused a moment, then added, "I am a religious man, I go to Mass, and I felt I needed to tell you so you could write in your book and speak to many people about the truth of Paul's shipwreck."
"Where are those two anchors today?" I asked, thinking there might be a remote chance of actually seeing the anchors and dating them to the same Roman epoch as the other four.
"I have children," he said, as he bowed his head in a somewhat embarrassed manner. "I sold the anchors for money. I am not proud of this, but this is the way of it. Life is expensive these days, and the fish...a lot of them are gone. It's hard to make a living."
The man turned and rose from the table. Our brief meeting was already over. He had told me everything he knew, and it clearly fit the Biblical narrative. We shook hands and he left as he had come, walking down the dark street, wet with rain.
Later that evening, as I reflected on our conversation, I replayed in my mind Luke's detailed description of two separate but connected incidents involving the ship's anchors. When the crew had dropped the four anchors from the stern, putting a hard brake on the ship's irresistible crash course toward the reef, another group of frightened sailors had perpetuated their own panicked intrigue. In their failed attempt to flee from the ship, they pretended to lower the forward bow anchors; instead, they ended up casting the lifeboat out to sea.
I found it astonishing that Paul, a prisoner on board, discerned everything and exposed the crew's plot to the centurion, warning him that, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." He knew that every sailor would be required to steer that big ship through the treacherous waters where the two seas met if they had any chance of reaching the safety of the bay.
And we all know the rest of the story: the ship perished in the violent waves on the reef; the entire crew swam to shore safely; Paul and Luke went on to spread the Good News to a waiting world; and, the anchors found their grave in the sand and rocks on the outer waters and the shallows of the inner Munxar Reef, lost to history for more than nineteen centuries.
My purpose ended there as well. I had followed the trail of the anchors to its outermost reaches and they, in turn, had spoken to me in soft, whispered secrets from the deep. All that remained was to say thank you to a new family of friends, bid farewell to exquisite Malta, and return home.
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This article was excerpted from Bob Cornuke's amazing adventure, The Lost Shipwreck of Paul. For those who want to experience the thrill of discovery firsthand, check out our cruise to Malta, where we'll visit the actual site of Paul's shipwreck in the shallows of the inner Munxar Reef!