As Port Elizabeth is prone to violent south-easter wind storms in the latter half of the year, optimism that there would not be a repeat of the 1902 disaster was profoundly misplaced.
1903’s storm season would test whether the rescue services were adequately prepared when nature would once again do its damnedest. Timeless lessons would once again be learnt and relearnt. Would the authorities once again be assailed by a raft of criticism for their maladroit handling of the situation, be damned with faint praise or receive a chorus of approval?
Only time would tell.
Main picture: Rescuers go out on the line during the gale of November 1903
Apart from one naval engagement between British and French warships in Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth has been spared the horrors and depredations of war. Compared with other naval engagements such as those in the Pacific Ocean during WW2, this one can justifiably be rated as minor.
Having said that, during this Napoleonic era, with tensions between the dominant maritime nation, Great Britain, and the pretender to the “throne,” France, being white hot, any misstep in the southern oceans placed the British position on the Indian subcontinent in danger.
Main picture: Fight between the ship of the line, Jupiter and the French frigate, Preneuse
Most of what is nowadays known as the Eastern Province was devoid of whites prior to the arrival of the 1820 Settlers. Notwithstanding that fact, a sprinkling of intrepid Dutch farmers did farm in the area between the Gamtoos River and the Great Fish River. By all accounts, it was a precarious existence at best. Not only were they at the mercy of marauding bands of indigenous tribesmen but they were also in danger from large predatory animals.
In spite of all these clear and present dangers, numerous indomitable adventurers also traversed this treacherous landscape. One such person was Henry Lichtenstein, a German medical doctor and a professor of natural history at the University of Berlin.
This is his story as recorded in his book entitled Travels in Southern Africa in the years 1803, 1804, 1805 & 1806.
Main picture: Henry Lichtenstein