Mossel Bay’s shipwrecks go digital

Published on : Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mossel-BayMossel Bay Tourism has published a map of the shipwrecks in Mossel Bay ahead of South Africa’s annual Heritage Month.

And, in effort to preserve the environment, the company has no plans to print the map on paper: it’s only available as a digital file.
 
“We hope that it’ll become a fun addition to our inventory of local stories – especially amongst sailors and scuba divers,” said Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm.

 

“Mossel Bay has a rich maritime history – which could possibly go back to before Bartolomeu Dias, whose arrival in 1488 marked the first recorded landing by a European crew on South African shores,” she said.

 

The oldest known wreck in the area – nicknamed the ‘Soares Wreck’ after its fleet commander – dates to 1505.
 
“Thirteen Portuguese ships had sailed from Lisbon to India in 1504 under Lopo Soares d’Albergaria, and on the return voyage two of them were sent ahead of the others to bring news back home.
 
“We don’t have a proper record of what happened, or even of the name of the ships, but we do know that one of the two ran ashore at Mossel Bay at night sometime during 1505.

 

“Later that year, two more vessels sailed from Lisbon to deliver military supplies to Sofala (Portugal’s first permanent station in East Africa, in what would eventually become Portuguese Mozambique), and also to look for possible survivors in Mossel Bay.

 

“But although a convict and a ship’s boy searched the coast for three days, all they found were a mast and a skeleton,” said Ms. Holm.

 

She said that Mossel Bay Tourism posted summaries on line of the stories of more than 40 wrecks ahead of last year’s Heritage Month (see ‘Shipwrecks of Mossel Bay’ and ‘Conserving shipwrecks: a focus for Heritage Month in Mossel Bay’).

 

“The new map is an extension of the commitment we made last year, and in itself it’s actually also a demonstration of our commitment to preserving our history, since it’s a reworking of a map that was first published – probably in the 1980s – by the old Mossel Bay Culture Museum, which was closed in 2001.”

 

Ms. Holm said that the map can’t be used for locating any of the wrecks in the Bay.

“The scale is too large, and we haven’t provided any GPS coordinates – and this is important for the preservation of the sites.”
 
Rear Commodore of the Mossel Bay Yacht and Boat Club’s amateur diving section, Daniel Rogers, said that wrecks form only a small part of Mossel Bay’s attraction for scuba divers.
 
“For us it’s more about the unique geo-structure and biology of the marine environment.

 

“Mossel Bay is a place for people who appreciate the beauty of small, intricate things like the soft corrals, and the unusual crustaceans and molluscs. Especially in the summer months – when the reefs become active breeding grounds, and the visibility is often at its best – it offers an amazing variety of species, which makes for very exciting diving.

 

“But the wrecks do have the potential to attract more attention – especially from local divers who are interested in maritime archaeology.”
 
He stressed, however, that it’s illegal to disturb any historical wreck, or to move or collect any items from a wreck, “because that would destroy any chance that archaeologists might have of piecing together the ship’s story.”
 
Mr. Rogers called on divers who are interested in the area’s maritime heritage to join the Yacht Club’s amateur diving section.

 

“The more people we can get involved, and the more awareness we can create, the better chance we have of saving what’s left of our underwater heritage,” he said.

 

Download the map ‘Shipwrecks in Mossel Bay’ in pdf format here. The document is suitable for home printers.

 

Source:- Mossel Bay

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