Knot Wednesday: The Monkey’s Fist


Behold! The Monkey's Fist

Every ocean scientist should know how to tie a half dozen or so knots.  One of those should be a monkey’s fist, name because it looks like a small clenched fist, it was originally tied into the end of a line or rope to add weight.  The weighted end could be thrown easily over a horizontal yard on a mast or between the ship and dock during tie up.  Stories also tell of sailor using them in bar fights.  But I and KZ know nothing about that.

They are an elegant knot and you can impress others by making either cufflinks, for those fancy nautical occasions, or as a keychain.  I have used them repeatedly as underwater float in polypro line that can be easily grabbed by a submersible or ROV manipulator arm.

Monkey's Fist made of polypro keep the rope handles above these deployed pieces of wood hovering in the water so that ROV and submersible manipulator arms can easily access them

Monkey's Fist made of polypro keep these line handles above deployed pieces of wood. The line hovering in the water can easily be accessed by ROV and submersible manipulator arms

Dr. M (1714 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

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7 comments on “Knot Wednesday: The Monkey’s Fist
  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Monkey’s Fist | Deep Sea News --

  2. Thanks for posting this – brings back memories. We used to make these in boy scouts and flail them around like medieval weapons. Ours had several more layers than the one pictured.

  3. they float! you are not making the wraps around lead, are you? what do you use inside? I have several around as door stops around ping pong balls, but the balls get crushed.

  4. Ah this is one not I keep on meaning to learn. You should do a knot segment like the marine phrase. For the DOI boat class you couldn’t pass if you couldn’t do the bowline and about 5 other knots. My old coworker used to make these when bored and just harass people, so yeah def a weapon.

  5. I make thousands of these for sale. For the boat owner, I have been making them with ping pong balls inside to provide enough buoyancy to hold up a couple keys should they fall overboard. I really like the polypropylene idea, and I have never even considered using them as a float salvage. This is ingenious. You’ve overcome the crushing power of the water by going coreless (which I do for decorative pieces) and instead use the specific gravity of the polypro for buoyancy.

    I’ve saved a link to this page, when I rework my pages, I’d like to include a link here to share a very creative use of one of the basic knots of seamanship.


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