Tavira’s dramatic “anchor cemetery” is rusting to bits

A university graduate is desperate to save Tavira’s stunning anchor cemetery.

The extraordinary ‘graveyard’ of 248 anchors rooted in the sand at Praia do Barril is quite literally rusting to bits.

“Something has to be done urgently if we don’t want to lose it altogether,” 25-year-old Joana Madeira Rebelo has told Barlavento newspaper.

Dating back to 1966, the display is a commemoration to the Algarve’s once-thriving tuna fishing industry and the generations that worked within it.

But as conservation and restoration buff Rebelo points out, there is nothing on Barril to explain this.

Aside from their physical presence, she thinks much more should be done to promote and protect the anchors.

“I know the beach concession (Grupo Pedras) has tried to close off the graveyard by setting up physical barriers,” she told Barlavento. “But there is still a lot they could do.”

The most pressing concern is how to slow the anchors’ rate of decay. This is almost certain to be “complex and costly”, she said – thus the hope that by publishing the research she has done for her Master’s degree, she might raise awareness and “open the way” to other engineering projects.

Another way of preserving the graveyard would be to turn it into an “outdoor museum”, she said, where people could appreciate the anchors for all that they represent.

“People don’t visit Barril for the beach,” she said, “but because there is something here that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

Local archaeologist Brígida Baptista agrees: “It would be a great project as this is the kind of maritime heritage that should be much better appreciated.

“People come to Barril, they see the anchors, but they don’t know the history behind them.” Thus Rebelo’s mission.

“There’s no way of improving on the anchors’ current state,” she stressed, “but a future system of conservation could save them from being lost forever.”