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Shipwrecks


In 1552, The São João was the first cargo ship to be wrecked along South Africa's coastline, carrying pepper, Chinese porcelain, cowry shells, carnelian beads and other merchandise. The ship, with around 600 people on board, ran aground off what is now known as Port Edward, near the Kuboboyi River. One hundred died attempting to get ashore, the rest made a temporary camp, near 'Tragedy Hill' (since named for a massacre in 1831 of the local Nguni clan by a Zulu war band).

In 1554 The Sao Bento was wrecked on Msikaba Island in 1554. A survivor from the Sao Bento gave a detailed account of the walk from the Msikaba River to the Mtamvuna River. Some 150 people lost their lives in the violent storm on 24th April 1554 that drove the shop on to the island, but some 322 people did manage to get the mainland. They made a camp on the south bank of the river and the shelter was "a superb lodging made of rich carpets, pieces of good cloth and silk, put to very different use from that for which they were made."

In 1884, The Nebo, The Nebo was an old 200 ton steamship used in 1884 as a cargo vessel between Sunderland and Durban. She was carrying building materials for Amanzimtoti railway bridge when she struck Aliwal on May 20 1884. Reports claim a pinnacle was the reason for her sinking but this coral head has never been reported again.

Another report claimed overloading which caused the ship to capsize. Nebo sits upside down and has been heavily demolished.

In 1974, The Produce, a 119m long Norwegian bulk carrier, weighing in at 15000 tons passed by the Kwa Zulu Natal South Coast. She was travelling south from the port of Durban carrying a cargo of molasses when she struck, and ripped open her hull, on the northern Pinnacles of the nearby Aliwal Shoal during rough seas on the 11th August 1974. The crew made a brave attempt to turn the ship around to return towards Durban but the ship was irrevocably doomed and started to sink. The event was witnessed from ashore and a rescue party was launched by local fisherman who managed to heroically rescue all the crew in treacherous conditions, thereby averting any casualties. The ship split in half and quickly came to settle about 500m north of Aliwal Shoal shortly afterwards where today she provides an excellent opportunity for a most interesting dive.

The rusting framework now provides an established residence for a myriad of varied fish species, including her famous yet shy school of dark brindle bass each measuring over 2m in length. The vessel lies on her starboard side on a sand bed at approximately 30 metres, with her bridge section lying merely about 14 metres below the surface. The stern is largely intact although 30 years have inevitably taken their toll on the wreck.

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