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 (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

7 Replies to “Knot Wednesday: The Monkey’s Fist”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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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