The engine block of the Nolloth in the foreground

Cape Town’s visible shipwrecks: Nolloth

The engine block of the Nolloth in the foreground
The engine block of the Nolloth in the foreground

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!

Engine block of the Nolloth
Engine block of the Nolloth

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.

Ribs of the Nolloth
Ribs of the Nolloth

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 on the beach south of Olifantsbos
The Nolloth on the beach south of Olifantsbos

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.

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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