The Western Cape was named the Cape of Storms a few hundred years ago, and this is no empty moniker. If one has travelled in and around the Cape’s coasts, chances are, that you would have witnessed these enormous maritime victims on some rocks or buried deep in the sand. Iron giants abandoned in some stormy moment in our histories. Some of these ships are hundreds of years old, and are only known by a whittled down rusty pipe or two sticking out of the waves or sand. Each shipwreck in the Cape has its own story. Ships that have given into the tides of the Cape of Storms seem almost willing victims.
On Long Beach in Noordhoek one of these ships rests. Any speckle of evidence displaying its previous glory high on the waves has been eaten almost completely by the salt water and sandblasting wind. In Simon’s Town, there are two or three spires feebly jutting out of the waves next to Main Road.
There are some sad stories around some shipwrecks too. On Milnerton Beach a century or two ago, there lived a man called Wolraad Woltemaude. He witnessed – in the heart of a storm one night – a ship just offshore having some trouble. He then saw the passengers shouting for help. Woltemaude bravely got his horse, and swam the horse out to the ship in the horrific storm, saving every single passenger of the wrecked and sinking vessel. As he was bringing the last survivors close to the shore, his exhausted horse began to sink and the they were unable to lift themselves above the waves. Sadly, they sacrificed themselves to bring the passengers of the ship to shore.
Many other tales surround the wrecks on the coasts of the Western Cape. There are many paths in the waters too treacherous for a ship to take, and sadly many get lost. There was a large ship stranded on the rocks on the south side of Llandudno Beach, many years ago. Many parts of the ship had still been intact, and many people – after a small risky swim through the freezing waters – would climb aboard and explore the creaking and abandoned vessel. Later on, the authorities started removing as much of the ship as they could and the rest vanished beneath waves.
There have been some ecological disasters resulting from some ships though. Sadly, last year an oil tanker moored itself on a sand bank up the west coast near Milnerton. Months went by as officials tried to see if they could budge the ship out of the sandbank, but the ship started leaking oil into the water. They eventually removed as much fuel as they could and eventually blasted the ship to pieces.
An oil spill is very dangerous. If you’ve helped scrub penguins clean, or even just yourself, you’ll know how hard it is clean off that oil. It is stubborn and stains your skin, and worst of all it stinks. Most harmfully, it can suffocate small sea animals and we only need to look at the latest disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to realize the damage that can be done by large amounts of this fluid being pumped into the ocean.