Exploring the bow

Dive sites (Durban): Coopers light wreck

Exploring the bow
Exploring the bow

I’ve tried to dive the Coopers light wreck before. It didn’t end well. This time, I was determined to see the wreck, and see it I did, on the third and final day of diving that we did on our Durban trip. The visibility was at least 25 metres – in the range where it almost doesn’t matter what the number is, it’s so fantastic. The water was warm, even at the bottom, and the wreck is something special to see.

Maurice swimming the length of the Coopers light wreck
Maurice swimming the length of the Coopers light wreck

No one knows what the name of the ship that lies wrecked opposite the Cooper lighthouse on the Bluff (hence it being commonly referred to as the Coopers light wreck). There is speculation that it’s an old whaler because of a curious structure on the aft deck that looks like a harpoon gun. It is in fact part of the ship’s steering mechanism – whaling ships had guns on their bows, not at the back of the ship.

Craig explores the bow of the Coopers light wreck
Craig explores the bow of the Coopers light wreck

According to Patrick at Calypso, here is a possibility that this wreck is the Terrier IV, an old whaler chartered by Peter Gimbel and Ron and Valerie Taylor for the filming of their shark documentary Blue Water White DeathThe Terrier sailed from Durban to Sri Lanka to Australia, as recounted by Peter Matthiessen in his book about the trip, entitled Blue Meridian.

I digress. The wreck is about 76 metres long and a bit over 10 metres wide, with a single propellor. There are two huge boilers near the middle of the wreck, and the bow and stern are fairly intact. The wreck and its vicinity teem with harlequin goldies, lionfish, and baitfish. We saw a large ray swimming languidly past behind a curtain of piggies, and a large scorpionfish resting at the bow. The size of the wreck makes it quite suitable to explore in its entirety on a single dive, although it is the kind of place that will bear many repeat visits.

We dived the wreck on 32% Nitrox, which gave us decent bottom time, the wreck lying at a maximum depth of 30 metres on the sand. I was having mask (actually, probably hair) trouble again, however, and used up a fifth of my air just clearing my mask. So I didn’t have as long a dive as I’d have liked.

There’s a nice African Diver article about the wreck here, with some more photos.

Soft corals on the wreck
Soft corals on the wreck

Dive date: 20 June 2013

Air temperature: 24 degrees

Water temperature:  23 degrees

Maximum depth: 29.6 metres

Visibility: 25 metres

Dive duration: 37  minutes

Christo approaching on the wreck
Christo approaching on the wreck

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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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