One would have thought that the denouement of the age of sail would have brought the menace of the Thunderbolt Reef to a close. Instead, it was not to be. Perhaps as a belated swansong, on a calm winter’s afternoon on Monday 29th July 1985, yet another vessel would attempt to traverse the treacherous inner route between the rocky shore at Cape Recife and Thunderbolt Roof. With few exceptions, they would learn a sobering lesson about its dangers. In the case of the Kapodistrias, a Greek bulk carrier of 29,185 tons, it would not be an exception.
How was it possible that a modern vessel equipped with all the latest navigation equipment, could run aground on a calm morning?
Main picture: This was the last photo taken of the Kapodistrias wreck at Cape Recife. The next morning she was gone.
At the risk of overstatement, dynamite was characterised as being extremely volatile in prior centuries. Just like Johannesburg, where the explosives factory was established at Modderfontein which was originally located far outside the municipal boundaries, so it was in the rest of South Africa.
This blog deals with how Port Elizabeth dealt with this risk or in modern parlance, its Risk Mitigation Strategy, during the 19th century.
Main picture: Overhead ropeway to transport the explosives from the landing stage to the magazines of the various importing companies
The last hurrah of the sailing ship was the Anglo Boer War. Large numbers of sailing ships laid up in their home ports, were spending their dotage in quiet contemplation of their imminent and final demise in a wrecking yard, or if they were lucky, as a tour ship or museum exhibit.
Instead these superannuated vessels were drafted back into service to transport troops and supplies of the British Empire to the Cape. In a strategically inept move, the Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State had displayed their temerity in invading the British Colonies of Natal and the Cape.
Main picture: The last sailing ship to be wrecked along the South African coast, the Colonial Empire came ashore at Cape Recife in 1917
The sinking of the SS Queensmoor off Cape Recife in September 1934 was captured on film and presented on “News in a Nutshell” on BBC.
Attached is a link to the British Pathe copy of the film on YouTube.
Main picture: The Queensmoor in the process of breaking up Continue reading