The wreck of the Kakapo on Long Beach, Noordhoek

Cape Town’s visible shipwrecks: SS Kakapo

Update (December 2017): The increasing frequency of muggings by armed men in the vicinity of the Kakapo (sometimes hiding inside the wreck) means that you should only visit the wreck in a large group, on a weekend, preferably accompanied by dogs, and – unfortunately – with the expectation of trouble. When the management of Table Mountain National Park finally realises that their mandate requires action on this matter, rather than focusing on just collecting entrance fees to the park and fining the vicious criminal dog walkers who don’t have activity cards, I’ll tone down this warning.

The wreck of the Kakapo on Long Beach, Noordhoek
The wreck of the Kakapo on Long Beach, Noordhoek

The Kakapo is not a shipwreck that you can dive on; it’s actually one that you can explore with your non-diving buddies, and even with your dog. No special qualifications are required to do a wreck penetration here.

Tony walking away from the wreck
Tony walking away from the wreck

On an evening in late May 1900, during a northwesterly gale with rain and thick mist, it seems that the captain mistook Chapmans Peak for Cape Point (this was before the days of the Slangkop Lighthouse), and swung hard a-port, full steam ahead, as he rounded it. The ship was driven so far up the beach – which she hit at an impressive speed of nine and a half knots – that banks of sand rose on each side of the hull.

Me next to the boiler
Me next to the boiler

There’s some confusion as to exactly why the incident took place. Apparently the fog was so bad that the officers on watch couldn’t see past the bow of the ship from the wheelhouse; the ship’s compass was also rumoured to be faulty. The page in the ship’s logbook corresponding to 25 May 1900 mysteriously vanished, so the truth remains unknown.

Regardless of the reason for the presence of this particular shipwreck, I find the story hilarious (although I’m sure there were some red faces all round), and since I love shipwrecks this is one of my favourite places in Cape Town. You can either park in the beach parking area just below Chapmans Peak and walk several kilometres down Long Beach, Noordhoek, or you can go via Kommetjie, which is a lot shorter.

Sunset behind the boiler
Sunset behind the boiler

This is a wonderful walk for a summer evening, or a picnic spot for a warm weekend. It’s far enough away from everything that you can feel as though you have the place totally to yourself.

Wreck sticking out of the sand
Wreck sticking out of the sand

These photographs were taken in early 2010; the sand moves about and at some times more or less of the ship may be exposed.

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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