The Clan Stuart engine block seen from a stern facing position

Cape Town’s visible shiprecks: SS Clan Stuart

The Clan Stuart is an iron shipwreck that is 100 years old this year. One of the few shipwrecks in Cape Town that is accessible as a shore dive, she is also occasionally dived by boat. Her engine block protrudes from the water at almost all states of the tide – sticking far out at spring low, and almost covered at spring high.

Heavily encrusted engine block of the Clan Stuart
Heavily encrusted engine block of the Clan Stuart

Divers tend to encounter the engine block of the Clan Stuart wreck from below, looming abruptly ahead of them as they traverse the wreck. Anglers view it from the vantage point of the beach, casting their lines in front of and around it. Dog walkers have a similar view. Everyone else sees this piece of False Bay history from the road or train, as they head into Simon’s Town or back towards Fish Hoek. Occasionally navy cadets, snorkelers, or (according to legend) scuba divers after a great white shark sighting will climb on top of the engine block, but for the most part – maybe because of its rough and unwelcoming texture – it’s left to the oyster catchers, gulls, and mussels.

The Clan Stuart engine block seen from a stern facing position
The Clan Stuart engine block seen from a stern facing position

On a rare windless day in False Bay, when the water was calm and surprisingly clean, Tony, Christo and I took a trip out to Mackerel Bay after dropping the divers off at the jetty in Simon’s Town. Tony was in the middle of doing some work on the boat, and wanted to show me how well it was going.

The Clan Stuart engine block
The Clan Stuart engine block

We were able to approach the engine block of the Clan Stuart quite closely. You can see in the photo above that the water was quite clean, and we could see the kelp on the wreck and some of the shallower wreckage. The engine of the ship was a triple expansion steam engine, and the engine block has three separate cylinders in which the hot steam was expanded.

Seaward side of the Clan Stuart engine block
Seaward side of the Clan Stuart engine block

We look forward to seeing the finished Clan Stuart documentary that some local filmmakers and researchers are compiling!

Published by

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.

Leave a Reply