Shipwrecks along the West Coast

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In 2019, Dolphin Beach Hotel had the honour of hosting the African Institute For Marine Underwater Research. Dr Bruno Werz had found strong evidence that they had discovered the remains of the Haarlem – one of South Africa’s most significant shipwrecks – which had wrecked in 1647 on the coastline in front of the hotel. The excavation areas can be found at the northern and southern ends of the hotel on the beach. Here are some other shipwrecks you can visit on the West Coast.

RMS Athens

The Royal Mail Ship Athens ran aground in 1865 during an evening of the classic Cape Town winds. Reports say that the ship was overcome by a massive wave and none of the crew made it to shore, except a pig. This is one of the easiest shipwrecks to visit – it is located at Mouille Point, Beach Road near the V&A Waterfront. You will have to look at it from the shore, where you can see parts sticking out of the sea.

Meisho Maru 38 Shipwreck

This one is located where the Indian and the Atlantic oceans meet, and the West Coast turns into the East Coast. The Meisho Maru 38 wrecked off the southernmost tip of Africa in 1982. All 17 crew members swam to safety and survived. The ship is a 20-minute walk from the Cape Agulhas lighthouse – if you ask inside, the staff will send you in the correct direction.

Thomas T. Tucker Wreck

Cape Point has quite the number of shipwrecks and has trails specifically for seeing them. The Thomas T. Tucker shipwreck is both the shortest trail and the easiest to access. The liberty ship, as it is also known, was built in the United States. She carried troops and weapons during World War II but met her end in 1942 while attempting to avoid detection by German U-boats. The crew ran the ship ashore, trying to save themselves from the foggy weather, as they thought they were running her into Robben Island. Today you can see the remains by starting off from the Olifantsbos parking lot. Yellow markers will point out where to go.

Rex Shipwreck

The Rex was an iron steam-powered trawler that wrecked on 3 October 1903. After setting off for England in the morning, the ship anchored off Kalk Bay to receive ice from cold storage. Due a strong south-east wind, her anchor started to drag, and she drifted onto the rocks. Although attempts were made to save her, she had sprung a leak and the crew abandoned ship. All 10 members made it safely to shore and 10 years later the Kalk Bay Harbour was built near this spot. During low tides, you can see some of the remains from within the harbour.

BOS 400 – 27 June 1994

A French crane barge, the BOS 400, ran aground on the rocks in Maori Bay near Hout Bay. The barge was being towed to Cape Town. Her cables, however, parted during strong currents and she drifted onto the rocks on 27 June 1994. Numerous attempts were made to tow it off the rocks but it was eventually declared a loss. Interestingly, the wreck lies partly on top of another wreck – the Oakburn that wrecked in 1906 – and the two are merging as the BOS 400 deteriorates. This is a popular tourist attraction, which can be seen from a hike along the coast.

We hope you explore some of these wrecks while you are staying with us. If you need any recommendations or advice, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team who will be more than happy to help. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the next important piece of the Haarlem wreck while swimming along the stretch of coastline in front of the hotel.

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