by Gor­don Franz

Robert Cor­nuke, a retired police offi­cer and now pres­i­dent of the BASE Insti­tute, has recent­ly released a video (August 2011) about his adven­tures on the island of Mal­ta. In the video he locat­ed old divers and spear fish­er­man on the island who claimed they found four lead anchor stocks off the Munxar Reef of St. Thomas Bay in 90 feet of water dur­ing the 1960?s and 70?s. Cor­nuke sur­mis­es that these anchors were from the ship­wreck men­tioned in the Book of Acts (27:29, 40; Cor­nuke 2003), but these were found on the east side of Mal­ta not the tra­di­tion­al sites on the north side. In fact, the cov­er of the video case said that this was: ?Pos­si­bly the Bib­li­cal find of this century?!
In the video, Cor­nuke is bold enough to claim: ?This evi­dence is just over­whelm­ing, in fact, I believe you have to force feed your mind past rea­son and log­ic, not to accept this site. It?s like Luke was leav­ing us a trea­sure map for some­one to fol­low.? Else­where he states: ?So real­ly, the only can­di­date that makes sense, this is Archae­ol­o­gy 101, that it should be the Munxar Reef on St. Thomas? Bay. Clear­ly, clear­ly this is the place it should be accord­ing to all the facts the Bible gives us.?
In this cri­tique, we will exam­ine the ?over­whelm­ing evi­dence? that Cor­nuke presents and see if it stands the scruti­ny of sci­en­tif­ic exam­i­na­tion and ver­i­fi­ca­tion. Is it real­ly the Bib­li­cal find of this cen­tu­ry? Is this the only site that fits all the Bib­li­cal requirements?
I have per­son­al­ly vis­it­ed Mal­ta mul­ti­ple times and am very famil­iar with the his­to­ry, archae­ol­o­gy, and geog­ra­phy of this won­der­ful island, and will offer my on-the-scene assess­ment of the data in the video and its conclusions.

Cornuke?s Argu­ments for the Loca­tion of the Shipwreck

Cor­nuke enlists the ser­vices of a local Mal­tese, James Mul­hol­land, iden­ti­fied in the video as an ?ama­teur his­to­ri­an,? to defend his the­sis that the Munxar Reef was where the ship­wreck occurred and the beach in St. Thomas Bay was where the foundered pas­sen­gers and crew came ashore. Mul­hol­land attempts to set forth four argu­ments in defense of this idea and I will sin­gle out the third as the most important.

First, Mul­hol­land cor­rect­ly states that just off the Munxar Reef there is an area where the depth of the sea is 120 feet (20 fath­oms) and 90 feet (15 fath­oms) in accor­dance with the depth record­ed by the sound­ing weights (Acts 27:28). Then he makes a very decep­tive state­ment: ?The west coast is out of the ques­tion, all [the depths] are over 200 feet. On the east coast is a must!? While it is cer­tain­ly true that the depth off the coast of the west side of the island is over 200 feet, this is a straw man because nobody is claim­ing the ship­wreck occurred on the west side of the island. On the oth­er hand, there are sev­er­al bays on the north side of the island where there is a 120/90 feet depth that would fit the Bib­li­cal requirement.

The sec­ond argu­ment Mul­hol­land sets forth is that St. Thomas Bay has the ?bay with a beach? (Acts 27:39). He then iden­ti­fies five bays on the island of Mal­ta that might be can­di­dates: Mel­lieha Bay, Sali­na Bay, Bal­lu­ta Bay, St. George?s Bay [also known as Marsaslokk Bay], and St. Thomas?s Bay. There are three oth­er bays that might have con­tained beach­es in antiq­ui­ty as well; St. Paul?s Bay, Marsamx­ett Bay with­in the Grand Har­bor of Val­let­ta, and Marsas­cala Bay. You see, St. Thomas Bay is not the only bay with a beach. On the north side of the island there are sev­er­al bays that have beach­es with­in them as well.

The third argu­ment set forth by Mul­hol­land and Cor­nuke, and I think the most impor­tant one, is that the sea cap­tain and sailors did not rec­og­nize where they were when the dawn broke (Acts 27:39). Cor­nuke cor­rect­ly states that Mal­ta was like O?Hare Air­port in Chica­go and the island was well vis­it­ed by sailors. How­ev­er, unlike sev­er­al bays on the north side of the island, he incor­rect­ly claims that the south-east side of the island would be the part of the island that the Alexan­dri­an grain ship sailors had nev­er seen. Cornuke?s state­ment is fac­tu­al­ly inaccurate.
On the con­trary, the south-east­ern part of the island, between the Marsaslokk Bay and the Grand Har­bor of Val­lette would be the best known part of the island for any sea cap­tain and sea­soned sailors of an Alexan­dri­an grain ship. This one point alone com­plete­ly dis­proves Cornuke?s ideas.
Any ancient Mediter­ranean Sea cap­tain, or sea­soned sailor on the deck of a ship anchored off the Munxar Reef, imme­di­ate­ly would rec­og­nize the east­ern shore­line of Mal­ta because Mal­ta was the land­mark for sailors trav­el­ing west­ward from Crete and about to turn north to Sici­ly. In essence, Mal­ta was the ?Turn Right to Sici­ly? sign in the mid­dle of the Mediter­ranean Sea! The east­ern end of the island would be what they saw first and it would be a wel­comed sight.
There are two geo­log­i­cal land­marks that the sea cap­tains would be very famil­iar with on the east­ern end of the island. The first would be the ?con­spic­u­ous white cliffs? to the south of the Munxar Reef (British Admi­ral­ty chart 2628, Mal­ta Island South East Por­tion) and the sec­ond, the Munxar Reef itself. Every sea cap­tain would know the haz­ardous Munxar Reef because of its inher­ent mar­itime danger.
Diodor­us Sicu­lus, a Greek his­to­ri­an who lived in the First Cen­tu­ry BC, states that the island of Mal­ta had many har­bors for safe­ty in bad weath­er (Library of His­to­ry 5:12:1 – 2; LCL 3: 129). Today, mar­itime archae­ol­o­gists might sub-divide Diodor­us? ?har­bors? into ports, har­bors, and anchor­ages. Recent schol­ar­ly archae­o­log­i­cal research has shown that there were two Roman ports on the island of Mal­ta. The first was in Marsaslokk Bay (south of St. Thomas Bay, also known as St. George?s Bay). The sec­ond was with­in the ancient Val­let­ta har­bor, much fur­ther inland in antiq­ui­ty and called Marsa today. It is at the foot of Cor­radi­no Hill (Bonan­no 1992: 25). Roman store­hous­es with amphorae were dis­cov­ered in this region in 1766 – 68 (Ash­by 1915: 27 – 30). When Alexan­dri­an grain ships could not make it to Rome before the sea-lanes closed for the win­ter, they win­tered on Mal­ta (see Acts 28:11). They would offload their grain and store them in the store­hous­es of Marsa (Gam­bin 2005), and prob­a­bly did the same thing in the port at Marsaslokk Bay, although the store­hous­es have not been found archae­o­log­i­cal­ly because today there is a liv­ing town over the struc­tures of the ancient port. Marsas­cala Bay, just to the north of St. Thomas Bay, had a Roman har­bor that the sea cap­tain would rec­og­nize if he were anchored off the Munxar Reef.
There was also a shal­low har­bor at Sali­na Bay on the north side of the island but this was for the local ship­ping of oil and wine, thus a deep-draft Alexan­dri­an grain ship would not dock at this har­bor and it would be unknown to those on such a ship.
But let us hypo­thet­i­cal­ly assume for a minute that the 276 pas­sen­gers and crew of the ill-fat­ed grain ship did, in fact, make it safe­ly to the beach on St. Thomas? Bay. Where would they go? The Bible says they were tak­en to the estate of Pub­lius, the lead­ing cit­i­zen of the island (Acts 28:7). Cor­nuke has nev­er ven­tured an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for the loca­tion of Pub­lius? estate.
But if the sea cap­tain, sailors, and Roman sol­diers, were washed up on the beach in St. Thomas? Bay, they would all know of the famous land­mark just up the hill from the beach. It was the Punic/Roman peri­od tem­ple ded­i­cat­ed to one god­dess known by dif­fer­ent names by the var­i­ous eth­nic groups vis­it­ing the island. She was Tan­it to the Phoeni­cians, Hera to the Greeks, Juno to the Romans, and Isis to the Egyp­tians (Trump 1997: 80, 81; Bonan­no 1992: Plate 2 with a view of St. Thomas Bay in the back­ground). They would have made a bee-line to this tem­ple, today called the Tas-Silg tem­ple, in order to get food, water, shel­ter, and warmth. But also to offer sac­ri­fices to the deity for spar­ing their lives in the ship­wreck! This tem­ple is only a 10 – 15 minute walk from the St. Thomas Bay beach and well-known by sea cap­tains and sailors.
The last argu­ment that Mul­hol­land sets forth con­cerns the place where two seas meet (Acts 27:41). He and Cor­nuke iden­ti­fy the place where the two seas meet as the Munxar Reef. While this loca­tion may fit this pos­si­ble inter­pre­ta­tion of this phrase, there are sev­er­al oth­er places on the north side of the island that would fit this descrip­tion as well.
There is, how­ev­er, a major prob­lem with the Munxar Reef being the loca­tion of the ship­wreck. The book of Acts records: ?But strik­ing a place where two seas meet, they ran the ship aground; and the prow struck fast and remained unmov­able, but the stern was being bro­ken up by the vio­lence of the waves? (27:41). Notice, it is the prow (front) of the ship that does not break up, only the stern (back). If an Alexan­dri­an grain ship hit the sol­id lime­stone of the Munxar Reef, the prow of the ship would have bro­ken up. Thus, it could not be a reef that was struck. It is clear, the Munxar Reef can­not be rec­on­ciled with the Bib­li­cal account.

The Four Anchors Off the Munxar Reef
Cor­nuke found old divers and spear fish­er­men that claimed they brought up four lead anchor stocks from the depth of 90 feet just out­side an under­wa­ter cave on the south side of the Munxar Reef. Based on Map 3 in Cornuke?s book (2003), the GPS for this loca­tion (cal­cu­lat­ed from the British Admi­ral­ty chart #2628, Mal­ta Island / South­east Por­tion) is:

Dropped Anchors 15 Fath­oms” point between “1” and “5” in the “15”
35*50’59.2878” N 14*35’42.1061” E (dd*mm’ss.ssss”)
35.8498143594* N 14.5950300716* E (dd.dddddddd*)
35*50.98886’ N 14*35.70180’ E (dd*mm.mmmmm’)

In the video, the first anchor that is dis­cussed is called “Tony’s anchor” in the book (2003:125). [This is actu­al­ly anchor #2 in the book]. It is described by dif­fer­ent peo­ple as a “large anchor stock” (2003: 106), a “huge anchor” (2003: 114), as a “large slab of lead” (2003: 126), and a “mas­sive Roman anchor stock” (2003: 126). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, like the oth­er anchor stocks shown in the video or pic­tured in the book, there are no mea­sure­ments giv­en for this one. The only size indi­ca­tors are the adjec­tives “large”, “huge”, and “mas­sive.”
I have vis­it­ed the Mal­ta Mar­itime Muse­um in Vit­to­riosa on sev­er­al occa­sions where ?Tony?s anchor? is now promi­nent­ly dis­played along with oth­er Roman anchors on the first floor of the muse­um. It is tagged ?NMA Unp. #7/2 Q?mangia 19.11.2002.? This anchor stock came from the vil­lage of Q?mangia and was hand­ed over to the muse­um on Novem­ber 19, 2002.
The anchor stock was one of the small­est on dis­play, mea­sur­ing about 3 feet, 8 inch­es in length. Large Alexan­dri­an grain ships would have had for the stern much larg­er anchors than this one. Cornuke?s lack of quan­tifi­able mea­sure­ments regard­ing the anchor stock keeps the view­er and read­er unin­formed about its actu­al size. As we shall see, this anchor stock is a lead tooth­pick com­pared to ?huge, lead-and-wood­en Roman-style anchors? that Cor­nuke sur­mised would be on the ship (Cor­nuke 2002: 15).
The cura­tors of the muse­um had a keen sense of humor plac­ing ?Tony?s anchor? close to the largest anchor ever dis­cov­ered in the Mediter­ranean Sea. This anchor stock mea­sured 13 feet, 6 inch­es long, and weighed 2,500 kilo­grams, which is two and a half met­ric tons, and most like­ly came from an Alexan­dri­an grain ship (Guil­lau­mi­er 1992: 88; a pic­ture of this anchor stock can be seen in Bonan­no 1992: 158, plate 66). The size con­trast between these two anchor stocks is striking!
The sec­ond anchor stock dis­cussed in the video was also found by Tony Micallef-Borg, but was melt­ed down to make lead weights. It was only half an anchor that was either ?pulled apart like a piece of taffy? (2003: 121) or sawn in half with a hack­saw (2003: 231, foot­note 18), depend­ing on which eye­wit­ness is most reli­able. [This is actu­al­ly anchor #1 in the book (2003: 101 – 105)]. Since it has been melt­ed down, it can­not be exam­ined. The third and fourth anchor stocks are not dis­cussed in the video. But a clip of Cor­nuke exam­in­ing the fourth anchor stock is giv­en in the video. The third anchor stock is also promi­nent­ly dis­played in the Mar­itime Muse­um and the tag on the anchor says, ?NMA Unp. # 7/1 Naxxar.?
Cor­nuke secured legal amnesty from pros­e­cu­tion, with the aid of the US ambas­sador, for any of the divers, or their fam­i­lies, that would turn their anchor stocks over to the Mar­itime Muse­um. Two of the three anchor stocks were turned over. As far as I am aware, the fourth anchor stock is still in a pri­vate col­lec­tion and has not been turned over to the archae­o­log­i­cal author­i­ties, or con­fis­cat­ed by the police.
In Novem­ber 2010, I met a young div­er in St. Thomas Bay that said he brought up an anchor stock from just out­side the cave off of the Munxar Reef, but it was con­fis­cat­ed by the police. This would be a fifth anchor stock found near the cave off the Munxar Reef. But the Bible clear­ly states that there were only four anchors that were left in the sea. The recent dis­cov­er­ies of more anchor stocks near the Munxar Reef at 90 feet would negate any of these being from the Alexan­dri­an grain ship that Paul was sail­ing on in AD 60.
Two Mal­tese divers, inde­pen­dent of each oth­er, informed me that there have been about 150 lead anchor stocks that were found around the island of Mal­ta. Twen­ty-five to thir­ty anchor stocks are in the pos­ses­sion of the Mal­ta Mar­itime Muse­um, but most anchor stocks are in pri­vate col­lec­tions on the island. How many more anchor stocks were found off the Munxar Reef near the cave at 90 feet? It is known that there is at least one oth­er anchor stock found in this area. Why would the four locat­ed by Cor­nuke be any­thing spe­cial? These four anchor stocks iden­ti­fied by Cor­nuke can­not be from the ship­wreck of Paul and Luke off the coast of Mal­ta around AD 60.

The Qual­i­ty of the Video is Poor, the Con­tent Inac­cu­rate and Deceptive
This video does not have the qual­i­ty of pre­vi­ous BASE videos. One gets the impres­sion that this video was hasti­ly thrown togeth­er under pres­sure. I found it odd that there was no FBI warn­ing at the begin­ning of the video against dupli­cat­ing it, and no cred­its or acknowl­edge­ments at the end of the video.
There are poor graph­ics. For exam­ple, a ship is seen sail­ing across the land on the island of Crete rather than on the water below the island.
There is poor edit­ing. James Mul­hol­land is cut off in mid sen­tence when he said there are two places on the island where ?two seas meet togeth­er,? but the view­er is nev­er told the loca­tion of the sec­ond place. ?Ellena Micalle­fif [sic] Borg?s? name is misspelled.
There are his­tor­i­cal mis­takes. Paul?s jour­ney to Rome and the ship­wreck is dat­ed in the video to AD 65. Most New Tes­ta­ment schol­ars would place the jour­ney either in the year AD 59 or 60 (Bruce 1995: 475).
There are geo­graph­i­cal mis­takes. The Syr­tis [Sands] (Acts 27:17) is labeled on the map as the desert on the east­ern part of present day Libya and Cor­nuke points to the sands of North Africa on the com­put­er mon­i­tor. Gra­ham Hutt, does how­ev­er, prop­er­ly iden­ti­fy it as the Bay of Syr­tis in the Mediter­ranean Sea. Also, the map of the bays on Mal­ta misiden­ti­fied Sali­na Bay with the arrow actu­al­ly point­ing to St. Paul?s Bay!
There are decep­tive parts. The scene where an anchor stock is being raised with two oil drums was actu­al­ly a recent reen­act­ment, some­time between 2000 and 2003, yet the view­er is not informed of this (see Cor­nuke 2003: Plate 10 bot­tom). The anchor stock being used in the reen­act­ment is much larg­er than the anchor being dis­cussed. The footage is also made to look like vin­tage movie footage by com­put­er soft­ware but the view­er is giv­en a false impres­sion that this was from the time the orig­i­nal anchor stock was being raised.
There are mis­lead­ing parts as well. It is stat­ed that the two anchors that were turned over to the muse­um are on dis­play in a dusty cor­ner of the Mar­itime Muse­um in Val­let­ta. This is mis­lead­ing because they are promi­nent­ly dis­played, as the video shows, on the first floor of the Mal­ta Mar­itime Muse­um locat­ed in Vit­to­riosa, across the har­bor from Valletta.
The video was pro­duced by Vapor Dig­i­tal Media in coop­er­a­tion with the BASE Insti­tute. When I tried to access the web­site ( on Sep­tem­ber 5, 2011, I got a ? webpage!
The video does not give cred­it where cred­it is due. There is no acknowl­edge­ment of per­mis­sion from the Mar­itime Muse­um to film the two scenes inside the muse­um. This is stan­dard pro­ce­dure with muse­ums. Also, the scene where four anchors are dropped into water was done by The Big­ger Pic­ture on Mal­ta, but there is no acknowl­edg­ment of this fact. In fact, there are no cred­its or acknowl­edge­ments at the end of the video, just the lists of the Amer­i­can and Mal­tese Advi­so­ry Teams.
It is sur­pris­ing to see Tony Micallef-Borg?s name list­ed on the Mal­ta Advi­so­ry Team at the end of the video. The view­er deserves an expla­na­tion for this inclu­sion. Accord­ing to Cor­nuke, Tony was div­er ?numero uno [num­ber one], he was the top guy? on Mal­ta, but he died in 1978, long before Cor­nuke began any of his inves­ti­ga­tions on the island. Tony?s name does not even appear in the acknowl­edge­ment of Cornuke?s book (2003:225 – 227), so why is it list­ed on the advi­so­ry team in this video? It begs for an explanation!

The Con­clu­sion of the Matter
This is a brief cri­tique refut­ing the ideas set forth in this video that the ship Paul and Luke were on was wrecked on the Munxar Reef off the coast of St. Thomas Bay and that four anchors from this ship­wreck have been locat­ed. For a thor­ough cri­tique of the book, The Lost Ship­wreck of Paul (2003), and Cornuke?s appear­ance on the 700 Club on Feb­ru­ary 26, 2010, see the ?Paul?s Ship­wreck on Mal­ta? sec­tion of my web­site:

I have plans, after my next study trip to Mal­ta, to co-author with a Mal­tese col­league, a length­i­er, more detailed, and thor­ough­ly doc­u­ment­ed cri­tique of Cornuke?s adven­tures on Mal­ta and his ideas on the ship­wreck of Paul.
In sum­ma­ry, it has been observed that the depth of 120 feet and 90 feet record­ed by the sound­ing weight, the bay with the beach, and the place where two seas meet is not unique to the Munxar Reef and St. Thomas Bay. There are sev­er­al bays on the north of the island where these cri­te­ria are sat­is­fied as well.
The most dev­as­tat­ing argu­ment against Conuke?s idea that the ship­wreck was on the Munxar Reef is that the sea cap­tain and crew of an Alexan­dri­an grain ship would clear­ly rec­og­nize the east­ern shore of the island of Mal­ta and espe­cial­ly the Munxar Reef and the St. Thomas Bay area. This goes total­ly con­trary to the Bib­li­cal account of which Cor­nuke claims to believe. Cornuke?s whole the­sis col­laps­es on this one point. This is the one point Cor­nuke has to defend, every­thing else is trivial.
It has been demon­strat­ed that there were more than four anchor stocks found near the cave off the Munxar Reef at 90 feet. At least one of those anchor stocks would be too small to be from an Alexan­dri­an grain ship.
The ideas found in this video have been found want­i­ng. There is no need to ?force feed your mind past rea­son or log­ic? to accept this the­sis because the archae­o­log­i­cal, geo­graph­i­cal, and Bib­li­cal evi­dence dic­tates that the ideas in this video should be aban­doned. These so-called dis­cov­er­ies are not the Bib­li­cal find of the 21st century.

Cri­tique and Refu­ta­tion of Oth­er Cor­nuke Theories
For a thor­ough refu­ta­tion of the oth­er so-called dis­cov­er­ies by Mr. Cor­nuke, please vis­it the ?Cracked Pot Archae­ol­o­gy? sec­tion of my web­site:

My addi­tion­al com­ments with­in quotes are in brackets [?].


Ash­by, Thomas
1915 Roman Mal­ta. Jour­nal of Roman Stud­ies 5: 23 – 80.

Bonan­no, Anthony
1992 Roman Mal­ta. The Archae­o­log­i­cal Her­itage of the Mal­tese Islands. Formia, Mal­ta: Giuseppe Castel­li and Charles Cini / Bank of Valletta.

Bruce, Fred­er­ick F.
1995 Paul. Apos­tle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.

Cor­nuke, Robert
2002 Paul?s ?Mir­a­cle on Mal­ta.? Per­son­al Update (April) 14 – 16.

2003 The Lost Ship­wreck of Paul. Bend, OR: Glob­al Pub­lish­ing Services.

Diodor­us Siculus
1993 The Library of His­to­ry. Books IV.59-VIII. Vol. 3. Trans­lat­ed by C. Old­fa­ther. Cam­bridge, MA: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty. Loeb Clas­si­cal Library 340.

Gam­bin, Timothy
2005 Ports and Port Struc­tures for Ancient Mal­ta. Forthcoming.

Guil­lau­mi­er, Paul
1992 New Per­spec­tives on the His­toric­i­ty of St. Paul?s Ship­wreck on Melite. Pp. 53 – 97 in St. Paul in Mal­ta. Edit­ed by M. Gaiea and J. Cia­rio. Mal­ta: Veritas.

Trump, David
1997 Mal­ta: An Archae­o­log­i­cal Guide. Valet­ta, Mal­ta: Progress.

About the Author
Gor­don Franz is an archae­ol­o­gist on the staff of the Asso­ciates for Bib­li­cal Research in Penn­syl­va­nia and has worked on numer­ous archae­o­log­i­cal exca­va­tions in Israel over the past 32 years, includ­ing Ketef Hin­nom and the Tem­ple Mount Sift­ing Project in Jerusalem, Ramat Rachel, Lachish, Jezreel, Kh Nisya (Ai), Hazor, and Tel Zay­it. He has also vis­it­ed Mal­ta on a num­ber of occa­sions doing research on the his­to­ry, geog­ra­phy, and archae­ol­o­gy of the island, as well as the loca­tion of Paul?s shipwreck.