A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about ship

Along The Skeleton Coast.

Shipwrecks, Desert and History Lessons.

overcast

Next day we had booked ourselves a day trip with Open Space Tours up the Skeleton Coast as far as Cape Cross. We turned out to be the only people on the tour. We were driven by an American man called Jay, who was married to a Namibian woman and had lived in Namibia for many years.

The Skeleton Coast refers to the northern coast of Namibia and the southern coast of Angola. Namibian Bushmen refer to this area as "The Land God Made in Anger", while Portuguese sailors used to call it "The Gates of Hell". The name Skeleton Coast was first used by John Henry Marsh when he used it as the title for his book about the shipwreck of the Dunedin Star.

This area is known for stormy seas, dense fogs and inhospitable desert. The shores used to be littered with the skeletons of whales and seals killed by the whaling industry here, which is probably why John Henry Marsh choose the name Skeleton Coast. Several shipwrecks line the Skeleton Coast victims of its stormy waters.

Our first stop on our trip was at the wreck of the Zelia. The Zeila got stranded in the early morning of the 25th of August 2008 about fourteen kilometres south of Henties Bay. This fishing trawler had been sold as scrap metal to an Indian company by Hangana Fishing of Walvis Bay. However, the Zelia got stranded when it broke free from its towing line while on its way to Bombay.

Me and the Zelia shipwreck.

Me and the Zelia shipwreck.

Peter and the Zelia.

Peter and the Zelia.

Close up of the wreck.

Close up of the wreck.

Both of us with the wreck.

Both of us with the wreck.

As we made our way back to the car, we were approached by two Namibian men selling some stones they had found in the Namib Desert. They had some pretty ones and I bought myself a desert rose like the ones I had seen in Charley's Desert Tours.

Seller of desert stones.

Seller of desert stones.

Next we drove into Henties Bay. This town is called after Major Hendrik "Henty" Stefanus van der Merwe who discovered the place in 1929. He had been hunting for rhinoceros in order to sell their skeletons to an American museum, but he ran out of water and after a long walk found fresh water here. He decided to return to this area and build a wooden hut near the riverbed that saved his life. He spent his time here fishing and relaxing. Slowly others began to build in this area and it gradually developed into a small town, particularly popular with anglers due to the rich fishing nearby. One of Henties Bay's sights is its gallows. As there were no cleaning services in Henties Bay, it became very difficult to keep it clean and this led to a great deal of bickering among the people who lived or holidayed here, so in 1978 two of the first permanent residents of Henties Bay, Frank Atkinson and Willie Cilliers, attached a rope and a noose to an old tree stump with a warning to keep the town and beach clean – or else! This, of course, was just a joke, but the gallows quickly became an attraction in its own right.

The gallows at Henties Bay.

The gallows at Henties Bay.

We stopped on the beach not far out of Henties Bay just to look up and down the coastline. It seemed to stretch endlessly - flat and barren - a shipwrecked sailor's nightmare. How many men foresaw their own deaths when washed up there? And yet, perhaps for that reason, the area also held a sort of fascination - a fight for survival, a battle against the elements.

Peter and I in the wilderness.

Peter and I in the wilderness.

Peter with our tour guide Jay.

Peter with our tour guide Jay.

Back in the car and next stop was Cape Cross. Some people visit here due to its seal colony, but I personally was more interested in the crosses placed here by Portuguese explorers in the fifteenth century.

Our first stop was the ticket office which mercifully had toilets. Yeah! And outside it there were some bones from the carcass of a whale - the sort of thing that gave the Skeleton Coast its name.

Peter and the whale.

Peter and the whale.

Then we went to the seals, truth be told we were a bit sealed out after our cruise of the day before. There were hundreds of them basking, fighting, sleeping. You name it they were doing it. Visitors are supposed to pass through the seals on an enclosed walkway, but seals can get on it. Our guide said they jump onto it, though I remain unconvinced that seals can jump. They don't seem made for such an action. Anyway there was a seal on the walkway and it bit an Italian tourist and he had to limp back to his car covered in blood and our guide told him he would have to have a rabies shot and for me suddenly seals were not so cute anymore and I decided I really was more interested in the history than the wildlife.

I wanted to look at this marker, but was too scared of the seals to go near it.

I wanted to look at this marker, but was too scared of the seals to go near it.

Seals, seals, seals.

Seals, seals, seals.

And even more seals, seals, seals.

And even more seals, seals, seals.

And seals.

And seals.

Cape Cross is called Cape Cross because in 1486, Portuguese seafarer and explorer, Diego Câo, arrived here and placed in the ground a stone pillar topped by a cross. This marker established Portugal's claim to the territory. Câo was on a voyage aimed at trying to find a sea route around Africa to India. His cross marker became a landmark and an important navigational aid. This was to be Câo's last voyage. He disappeared without trace on it and, to this present day, no-one has any idea what happened to him.

Many years later in 1893, Captain Becker of the German flagship Falke rediscovered this Portuguese cross and had it sent to Wilhelmshaven in Germany. German Emperor, Wilhelm II, insisted that a replica should be made and re-erected near the site of Câo's original cross. The actual original of Câo's cross is now in the German Museum for Technology in Berlin. In 1980 as the result of an initiative led by Director of the State Museum in Windhoek, CG Coetzee, a new cross made of Namib dolerite was erected on the exact site of Diogo Cão's original cross. In addition, architect François Malan designed three information platforms to celebrate the five hundred year anniversary of Diego Cão's historic voyage.

Peter with the historical crosses.

Peter with the historical crosses.

And with the other one.

And with the other one.

Both of us at Cape Cross.

Both of us at Cape Cross.

Both of us at Cape Cross.

Both of us at Cape Cross.

At one point in its history Cape Cross was known as a centre of guano production. Guano is the waste left by fish-eating birds. It can be used as a fertilizer and in the manufacture of explosives. Guano was once so valuable it was known as white gold. At one point there was a 21KM railway track from Cape Cross to a bay where ships waited to be loaded up with guano.

We left Cape Cross and headed off into the desert where we found beautiful wide open vistas and lots of lizards. Salt crystals are available for sale at the sides of the road.

In the desert.

In the desert.

In the desert.

In the desert.

In the desert.

In the desert.

Salt crystals for sale.

Salt crystals for sale.

After leaving the desert we drove back almost to Swakopmund noticing some interesting mirages on route. We stopped for a picnic lunch of beer, filled rolls, chocolate and fruit.

Picnic in the desert.

Picnic in the desert.

Then we drove back via the location. Locations were areas black Namibians were forced to move to under the Apartheid regime. Now they are no longer forced to live there, but some are trapped there through lack of money and resources.

The location.

The location.

The location.

The location.

Back in our hotel, we cooled down with a swim then headed into town to do some souvenir shopping. I bought several wood carvings of people and animals. Then, although we had not seen the big ten or even the big five, we got acquainted with the big six - a six pack with beers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. Peter's idea of heaven.

The big six.

The big six.

The big six.

The big six.

We ate dinner in the Brauhaus, a German restaurant in the centre of town. This restaurant has excellent food and a great selection of bottled and draft beers. Then we wandered home via some interesting art and craft shops.

Me in the Brauhaus.

Me in the Brauhaus.

The Brauhaus.

The Brauhaus.

Peter in the Brauhaus.

Peter in the Brauhaus.

Posing with arty, farty shops.

Posing with arty, farty shops.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

My turn.

My turn.

Posted by irenevt 06:07 Archived in Namibia Tagged desert ship seals crosses wrecks Comments (5)

(Entries 1 - 1 of 1) Page [1]