I think most people are keen for summer to arrive. I know I am. We dived last Friday at Atlantis and Boat Rock and had pretty good conditions – thank you to Arne for the photo above! Last weekend was a washout and the week has been dry thanks to the spring tides, swell and some wind.
The whales heard my complaints from last week, and on Friday a young whale breached in front of us again. This time while Geoff was holding the camera and he got a great photo!
False Bay is currently flat but not very clean. We are meant to have two days of westerly or north westerly winds so I think Sunday will be an option. There is also less swell on Sunday. I don’t think it is going to be paradise, but it will certainly improve over what we have right now.
We will launch on Sunday from theSimon’s Town jetty at 8.30 am for Maidstone Rock and 11.00 am for Atlantis. This is the plan, but the dive sites may change as I prefer to dive in better visibility if we go that far south, so will change sites to suit the conditions.
In other news
Diarise Diversnight 2015 for the evening of Saturday 7 November! More details to follow.
Also, as of yesterday we are a PADI Resort Dive Centre – the only major difference so far is that we now appear here…
Vulcan Rock is a dive site just outside Hout Bay. We dived it on a day when the south easter had been blowing for a while, so the visibility was quite good. The dive site is essentially a huge stack of granite boulders, with Vulcan Rock as the highest point. The rocks are covered with sea urchins, rock lobster, corals, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, and a bit of red seaweed.
Esther and I stayed within the range of Open Water divers, not going deeper than 18 metres, but it is possible to go as deep as 30 metres at this site if you go for a bit of a swim. This is definitely a site to visit when the surface conditions are good and the swell is low (not that Hout Bay diving is ever great – or particularly safe – in a big swell).
I had the little Sony camera with me and took some happy snaps. Underneath all the granite is an enormous cave, with several entrances. Peet, who joined us on this dive, made a video of the cave that I will share with you later this week.
On the rocks at Oude Schip are the remains of a Sea Harvest fishing vessel called MFV Harvest Capella. This 44 metre long diesel trawler ran aground in early October 1987, apparently during a south easterly gale. There are some pictures of her aground here and here.
Over the years, part of her bow has been pushed right up onto the rocks by the force of the waves. At the same time it has been breaking up, and perhaps in a few years will be almost indiscernible. The wreckage is quite unstable, and not really suitable for clambering about in any more.
Next time you’re in the area, ask your boat skipper to take you towards the rocks on the Sandy Bay side of Oude Schip to see how the Harvest Capella is looking these days!
We are back from an exploration trip to De Hoop. We took in Infanta, Arniston and Struisbaai as well as Cape Agulhas. Our aim was to gather info for future dive trips up the coast and we checked out the launch sites, accommodation, eating spots and so on. We went armed with a chart of the wrecks and reefs and chatted to some of the locals who use the areas daily. It was a fantastic trip and one of the highlights was filming the giant short tailed stingrays that are resident in the harbour at Struisbaai. We’ll share that video on Youtube in a day or two, and some photos on our facebook page. Instagram already has some highlights from the trip…
The weekend weather does not look all that rosy so we will launch tomorrow at 8.30 and 11.30. Saturday looks really messy and Sunday looks a little wet. We will launch on Sunday if the weather tones down from the current forecast. Either way, let me know if you’d like to be notified of possible Sunday dives, or if you’d like to be on the boat tomorrow.
Just a reminder to make sure your permit to dive in a Marine Protected Area is up to date. Also, if you book a dive please let me know in good time if you can’t take the spot on the boat so that I can give it to someone else.
The first event to do this was a free speaker evening, held at the Bluebird Garage in Muizenberg on Monday 7 September. Hundreds of people attended; I took the photo above before the room got so full that no one could move!
Here’s a link to a collection of coverage of the events on Storify, and the same compendium is embedded below. There are also some images in there from the welcome evening for the symposium, which was held at the Save Our Seas Shark Centre in Kalk Bay.
Being (in midlife) a creature of the south peninsula, I tend to focus my attentions on False Bay and the Atlantic coast from Hout Bay southwards. But there are rewards for the shipwreck hunter who ventures further north, and even for the shipwreck hunter who doesn’t necessarily want to get their feet wet. A visit to Milnerton beach, and a walk north from Milnerton lighthouse, reveals two shipwrecks in the surf zone. Milnerton beach is surpassingly filthy, but while I was there a beach cleanup was making some headway on the mounds of rubbish tossed off ships in Table Bay that ends up on the beach. The view of the lighthouse from the beach is also far more fetching than the view from the car park, if you can overlook the garbage.
About one kilometre north of the lighthouse, where the beach is cleaner and pebbles roll euphoniously in the waves, you will come across the massive boilers of the Hermes in the surf. The NSRI gets calls every year from concerned locals worried that a whale is stranded near the beach; the sea spray sometimes pushes through holes in the top of the wreck creating an illusion of a whale’s blow. The Hermes was a liner, built in 1899, on her way to Cape Town with a large cargo of livestock, forage and a few passengers. When she arrived in May 1901 the harbour was full, and she was forced to drop anchor for the night. A north westerly gale came up, she dragged her anchors, and when the captain ordered her engines started, they failed.
Seawards and to the north of Hermes, the engine block of the Winton is visible, in much the same way as the SS Clan Stuart can be seen at Glencairn in False Bay. The Winton came aground in July 1934, carrying a cargo of wheat from Port Lincoln in Australia to Liverpool, England. Her captain was unfamiliar with Table Bay and had mistook the red lights on top of the radio mast at the Klipheuwel Wireless Telegraph Station near Milnerton for the harbour lights. Attempts were made to pull her off the beach and some of her cargo was salvaged, but the wheat ignited and efforts to refloat her were to no avail.
On a calm day, an aerial view of the site reveals the full outline of both vessels surrounding the parts that protrude from the water. When I visited, it was rough after a large swell, but the tide was low. At high tide the view will be considerably less impressive.
It is possible to scuba dive this site, and Underwater Explorers dives the Winton every year during their summer Table Bay wreck diving jamboree. Obviously very calm, low swell conditions are required because the wreck is so shallow and so close to the beach.
We first saw the Commodore II on Lagoon Beach, Milnerton, when we went to Sophie and Jacobus’s wedding. It was a summer’s day, and she had a boogie board and a pool noodle lying on her keelson, a bride and groom (not Sophie and Jacobus) posing for photos on her, and a gazebo secured to some of the rivets protruding from her timbers. I was fascinated by the strength and size of what remains of the ship, and returned on a clear winter morning, before the beach filled up, to look at her again.
The Commodore II was a four masted schooner built in the United States, with a film credit as one of the sets in the 1935 Clark Gable film Mutiny on the Bounty. Privately owned, she ended up in Durban in the late 1930s and fell into disrepair after her owner died.
She was then towed to Saldanha, where she became a floating coal hulk during World War II. After the war she transported coal to South America and timber back to South Africa, but according to one of her crew, the ship ran into many difficulties and conditions on board were dire.
It was either in 1945, 1946 or 1948 (sources differ but I tend to believe the 1946 or 1948 dates) that she was set on fire and allowed to run aground off Milnerton. This was apparently considered an acceptable way of disposing of the vessel.
Not done yet, the Commodore II made an appearance in 2008, when a storm uncovered her remains at Milnerton. At the time the Cape Argus published an interview with one of her former crew, who described his love for the ship and described some of her history. I’m not sure of the status of the wreckage between 2008 and 2013, but the NSRI suggests that during that time the wreck washed into Milnerton lagoon and was secured inside the lagoon by residents who feared for the safety of water users if she was left to move about at will.
In September 2013 she came loose and washed out of the lagoon onto the beach. City officials promised to remove her, but two years later they still have not (for which I am glad). Today she lies in front of the Lagoon Beach Hotel, at times right on the edge of the Milnerton lagoon mouth (which moves around on the beach a bit). It is quite conceivable that another storm will wash her off the beach, back into the lagoon, or to a slightly different location, but for now she makes for an arresting sight on a crisp morning.
Finally, because it’s special, here’s one of the official trailers for Mutiny on the Bounty, featuring the Commodore II. I assume that’s her in the long shots, and perhaps the deck and below-deck scenes were also filmed on her. Enjoy –
We aren’t done with lighthouses yet. One of the ones I haven’t told you about is the old Mouille Point lighthouse, which is located in Granger Bay. This is what I used to interchangeably call the lighthouse at Green Point, but in fact they have always been two entirely different entities. The Green Point lighthouse was built in 1824, and was the first lighthouse in South Africa. The lighthouse at Mouille Point, a few kilometres down the road, was built in 1842 and decomissioned in 1908 when a light was established on the breakwater (or mole, hence the name) at Mouille Point making the light redundant.
This lighthouse was a beautifully cylindrical tapering tower, with horizontal stripes up its length. The base of the old Mouille Point lighthouse still stands, on the grounds of the Cape Technikon Hotel School. It is behind a parking boom, but if you speak politely to the security officials they will let you walk onto the premises to take some photographs. When I visited there was a wedding going on, and it took some manoeuvring to take these pictures without guests appearing in them!
Saturday: Early double tank dive, weather permitting
Spring is around the corner and we are still waiting for the weeks of crystal clean water we should have in False Bay. There have been very few real winter visibility days this winter. (I may have had this complaint last winter too…)
The weekend looks to be another let’s wait and see situation. Tomorrow’s wind should improve the visibility, which is currently not that great, for some good diving early on Saturday. By midday on Saturday the wind is strong and on Sunday it will be close to gale force. I hope to launch early on Saturday for a double tank dive but it’s low tide at 9.00 and there is a forecast 3 metre, 14 second swell so deeper sites will be better. I would imagine that the Roman Rock area will be our best bet. Text or mail me if you want to be on the list for Saturday and I will make a call tomorrow afternoon.
The wharf street parking at the Simon’s Town jetty is a paid parking area again from tomorrow. A slip is placed on your car when you arrive… Make sure the time is recorded correctly.
The second visible shipwreck along the Cape Point Shipwreck Trail, about three kilometres from the start in the Olifantsbos parking area, is the Nolloth. She was a Dutch coaster carrying a cargo of (mostly) liquor, and struck a submerged rock (probably Albatross Rock, nemesis of many ships) off Olifantsbos in April 1965. Her captain ran her aground to save the cargo and prevent loss of life. Customs officials swiftly salvaged the cargo!
The Nolloth lies just in the waves at high tide. We visited a couple of hours after high tide, and were able to walk all the way around the wreckage without getting our feet wet. She lies at an angle, with much of her seemingly buried in the sand. Her engine block is partially exposed, and for the mechanically minded, prolonged examination of the cogs and gears will be rewarding.
The wildness of the location lends a very special quality to this wreck that is lacking in Cape Town’s visible shipwrecks that are situated in more urban environments – RMS Athens comes to mind. It is a remote and very beautiful spot, but would be possessed of far fewer benign qualities on a dark and stormy night.
There are some fantastic pictures of the Nolloth in Brian Wexham’s Shipwrecks of the Western Cape, taken, I suspect, within 20 years of her running aground. There is far more of her visible – she looks like a ship on the beach rather than a ship in the beach! There is also evidence of some low wreckage in the shallows that might still be visible when the tide is at its nadir, but I would caution against too much barefoot exploration of rockpools unless the water is very clear and your tetanus shots are up to date.
The Nolloth signals the point at which one turns back along the Shipwreck Trail to head towards Olifantsbos once more. Tami, Maria and I spent a wonderful morning on the Shipwreck Trail exploring the Thomas T Tucker and the Nolloth. As an aside, I would like to apologise to the resident chacma baboons for disturbing the peace when I realised that – with the help of a Slingsby Map – I had in fact successfully navigated us (along a marked and named trail, mind you) to not one, but two shipwrecks.