Thursday, October 10, 2019

Slangkop Lighthouse, Noordhoek, Cape Town

Slangkop Point lighthouse, part of the Marine Protected Area of Table Mountain National Park, is a 34m-high giant of a lighthouse that has become the icon of Kommetjie. Visitors walking the 8km stretch of Noordhoek Beach often climb up to the top of the lighthouse for stunning coastal views.
The tallest tower on the South African coast was established after the lighthouse commission of 1906, but it wasn't until 1913 that tenders were invited for the supply of a cast-iron tower, lantern, optical apparatus etc. It had been intended to be put up by 1914, but the Great War intervened and though the lighthouse was built by that year it had to wait five years to be commissioned.
The cost of the original installation was 14 358.9.1. pounds.
The lighthouse is now fully automatic but a senior lightkeeper is retained on the premises for security reasons.

In 1914 the Senior Lightkeeper was J C Luxton, T F Addison taking over about 1918. Others in the earlier years were J Piper, A Small, H C Grieve, R W Gardiner.
J F Hannabus (see other posts on this lightkeeping family) was First Lightkeeper at Slangkop from 1963 - 1965, and C H Hannabus preceded him from 1929 - 1930. Other surnames associated with this lighthouse include: Bissel, Andreason, Linden, Stewart, Bruyns, Harty, and van Rensburg (F, 1970-1975).

Sunday, October 6, 2019

North Head Lighthouse Saldanha Bay

The first North Head Lighthouse on the northern side of the Saldanha Bay entrance, in South Africa, was a 300mm AGA acetylene gas lantern mounted on a square concrete pillar, installed on December 7, 1939. It had a small diaphone fog signal. 

As the harbour began receiving larger vessels in the export of iron-ore, it became important to upgrade the lighthouse.

In 1969 it became an electrical lighthouse on a steel lattice three-panelled pedestal, virtually identical to its sister lighthouse, the South Head. Since August 2005 a concrete tower that stands 21 metres high, painted in white and black diagonal stripes dominates the seascape. The steel lattice is still there but diminished in stature by the new concrete version. The new look is more in keeping with the 'idea' of lighthouses people have in their mind's eye.

The official vessels' arrival line for Saldanha Bay is the straight line connecting the centres of the two lighthouses - North Head and South Head. Should a boat of any description cross this line, it is considered to have 'arrived' within the bay.

Seen from a little way down the coast, the lighthouse is particularly striking, perched as it appears to be right on the very rocks that are daunting to ships, the old lighthouse still visible slightly behind it. Today the lighthouse is fully automated and monitored at Cape Columbine lighthouse. It lies within the property of the Saldanha naval base and a nature trail takes one past it.

AddressMilitary, Saldanha, 7395
Height21 m
CharacteristicFl (3) W 20s.
Tower height21 metres (69 ft)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Seal Point Lighthouse, Cape St Francis

Seal Point Lighthouse. This historic structure is South Africa’s tallest masonry lighthouse, standing at an impressive 27.75m on the second southernmost tip of Africa in Cape St Francis Bay. 

It has been in operation since 1878 and was declared a national monument in 1984. The circular lighthouse is equipped with a lantern house and second-order revolving lantern that has eight catadioptric lens panels.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Titanic April 1912

‘Stern View, Titanic’ from the famous Father Browne Collection of Titanic images. Taken while the ship is anchored at the entrance to Cork harbour, passengers can be seen relaxing on the after deck. A closer inspection of the after funnel reveals the image of a man’s head taking advantage of the spectacular views from his lofty position above the ship. Three and a half days after this nostalgic image was snapped, many of those passengers would have witnessed great tragedy and many would have been lost in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
Titanic's captain, Edward John Smith, was born in Well Street in Hanley in 1850. The son of a pottery presser and a grocer, Smith attended Etruria British School before starting work at age 12 at the Etruria Forge, where he operated a steam hammer.
A few years later, he went to Liverpool to follow in the footsteps of his half-brother Joseph, who was in the Merchant Navy, and was apprenticed as an ordinary sailor. By the age of 25 he had passed his master's certificate of competency to command a vessel and by 1880 had joined the White Star Line where he rose through the ranks to captain some of the biggest ships of the day.
He married Sarah Eleanor Pennington, a farmer's daughter, in 1887, and their only child, Helen Melville Smith, was born in 1898.
Smith told a New York Times reporter in 1907 he had "never experienced any problems at sea". That same year, White Star revealed plans to build three new ships - the Olympic, the Titanic and the Gigantic. The Olympic went into service in 1911 and was captained by Smith, who now held the rank of commander.
By this point, he had become known as the "millionaire's captain", the number one choice for the aristocrats of the time - many of whom chose to sail with him because of his reputation for safety and affability.

The plaque
Image captionA plaque to Smith was installed at Hanley Town Hall

In April 1912, while the Olympic was in for repairs, he took command of the supposedly "unsinkable" RMS Titanic for its maiden transatlantic voyage from Southampton to New York. When it departed, the ship was carrying 885 crew members and 1,316 passengers.
Smith was awoken about 20 minutes before midnight on 14 April after the ship hit an iceberg.
The liner sank less than three hours later at about 02:20. About 1,500 people perished, including Smith who went down with his ship.
A number of different accounts emerged about what the captain's last movements were, with one version that he dived into the sea as the bridge of the ship went under.
The British inquiry into what happened found that Smith had ordered the ship to travel too fast and that the lifeboats had not been filled before being lowered, but it was made clear that "negligence cannot be said to have had any part".
Smith's portrait was hung in his former school in 1913 and later a plaque was installed in Hanley Town Hall, while a further plaque was installed at his former home in 2012 to mark 100 years since the ship's sinking.
A bronze statue of him stands in Lichfield's Beacon Park in south Staffordshire.
Ancestry: The Titanic Collection for Family Historians

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, RMS Titanic Fatality Reports, 1912
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, RMS Titanic Graves, 1912
Titanic Survivors, Carpathia Passenger List, 1912
UK, RMS Titanic, Crew Records, 1912
UK, RMS Titanic, Deaths at Sea, 1912
UK, RMS Titanic, Outward Passenger List, 1912

Friday, September 27, 2019

Diaz Point Lighthouse, Namibia

Diaz Point Lighthouse, Luderitz, Namibia, in 1979 is named after Bartholomew Diaz, the Portuguese Captain who took shelter in the bay and was the first to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in 1487-1488. 

The lighthouse is 28 m high with a lantern and gallery set on a one-story-high hexagonal stone base. Originally grey, the tower is now painted in red and white bands. The foghorn is 450 m north of the lighthouse.

The violent south-west winds which rage almost incessantly at Diaz Point drive sand with such force that one dare not venture outside without adequate protection. 

The lighthouse serves as a marking point for the Luderitz harbour and is a welcome sight to the mariner navigating along this inhospitable coast.

The one-time German colonial authorities of the area put up their own lighthouse ca 1903 not far from the site of the present lighthouse and both beacons were functioning from 1 October 1910 to March 1911. However it is the second, i.e. the current, lighthouse which is in operation today. Never a popular station, with its remote isolation and harsh environment, together with high cost of provisions and other supplies, a tour of duty there has been an unattractive post. But it had to be manned and a number of stalwart lightkeepers have carried out their duties there.

See more on the keepers' experiences at or use the blog's search facility using search term Diaz Point.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Dassen Island Lighthouse 2

Dassen Island with its Jackass Penguin Colony, now much reduced.
Dassen Island became notorious for the number of shipwrecks occurring in its vicinity. 
The Western seaward side of the coast is deadly, with high seas beating in from the Atlantic and consequently many ships being driven onto the rocks.

Dassen Island is a 200-acre barren rock and scrub, 55 kms north of Cape Town and 11 kms from the coast. The island and its partly submerged reefs was a menace to shipping which is compelled to approach the south-western Cape coast on its way to or from Table Bay. The low-lying islet brought disaster to more than one fine vessel, among them the first Windsor Castle on 19 October 1876. All those on board were rescued from the island.

The lighthouse commission presented a report to the government stressing the necessity of having a powerful light on Dassen Island without delay. The government was in agreement and parliament provided the necessary funds. In August 1891 the tender of Chance Bros of Birmingham was accepted: the company would supply an eighty-foot cast-iron tower, a 12-foot lantern and 920 mm dioptric apparatus, together with all spares, stores etc. The contract sum was 6, 700 pounds and delivery was to be made within twelve months.

Prior to the wreck of the SS Wallarah, Dassen Island was without a lighthouse. Whilst outward bound on her maiden voyage from London to Sydney in 1891, the SS Wallarah, commanded by Captain F.H. Ekins, and belonging to Wilhelm Lund’s celebrated Blue Anchor Line, was wrecked at Boom Point on Dassen Island. It was this loss which prompted the authorities to take action and the lighthouse was duly erected.


SS Wallarah was wrecked 1891 at Dassen Island. This photo shows her sister ship, Yarrawonga (1891, 4000 tons). 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Dassen Island Lighthouse 1

Dassen Island Lighthouse is on the southern point of Dassen Island, west of Yzerfontein. It is a white circular cast-iron tower that has been in use since 1893.
The lighthouse is found on southern point of Dassen Island, off the western coast of South Africa, 55 km north-west of Cape Town and 11 km west of Ysterfontein. It was installed on 15 April 1893. The lighthouse consists of a circular cast-iron tower that is painted with white and red bands and stands atop a brick base to height of 28 m.

The light house signals two white flashes, separated by 10 s, every 30 s. The fog horn blasts for five seconds every fifteen seconds. The lighthouse is manned at all times. 

Dassen Island is the most isolated manned lighthouse on the South African seaboard. Set on a  barren outcrop of rock and sand some 55 km from Cape Town, and 11 km from the coast, the 28 metre high, circular lighthouse with its distinctive white and red bands is manned by a solitary senior lightkeeper.

It remains one of the major beacons on the Cape shipping route. In fact the island derives its name from the prevalence of shipwrecks in the area. It was so notorious that rabbits (dassies) and tortoises were released onto the island to serve as a source of food for any survivors.

The tower's outer walls are painted in eight alternative horizontal bands of red and white, whilst its lantern is twelve feet in diameter, the light of which was initially commissioned in April 1893. Today the range of the light is 24 sea miles so that on a clear evening one can see it from the top of Signal Hill in Cape Town.

Monday, September 16, 2019


Eleanor Anne Dixon-Smith (nee Hamilton) b 16 September 1945, Durban, 
Natal, South Africa with her children, Andrew and Elizabeth.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Gibson, Annie, widow, to Quebec from Scotland 18 June 1925

Passenger No. 2793 on the ship Letitia is Annie Gibson nee Bell, widow of Finlay Gibson (died December 1924). Annie was travelling to her daughter and son-in-law, the Robsons. She was to share a home with them in Winnipeg until her
death in September 1926.

Information included on this passenger list is her last address in the UK, 'Hawthorne, Stevenston, Ayrshire.' Her age is given as 66. Born on 14 February 1859 in Ontario, Annie was returning home after her years spent in Stevenston where she and Finlay had had 5 children - another Annie Gibson, Catherine Bell Gibson, Mary Gibson, Margaret Gibson and William Finlay Gibson, their only son, who died aged 22 in 1911. He was an engine fitter. Cause of death: lung disease.

At New Street Cemetery, Stevenston, is the memorial inscription
to William Gibson, son of Finlay and Annie, (age at death given as 23 here); his father's inscription reads Finlay Gibson died 31st December 1924 aged 84, and there is mention of Annie Bell, wife of Finlay Gibson died 27th Sept 1925 in Winnipeg Canada, 'where her remains rest'.

Annie Gibson lived here, 197 Hill Street, Norwood, Winnipeg, with her daughter (Kate) and son-in-law, the Robsons, after her return to Canada following the death of her husband Finlay Gibson.

Annie lies buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Winniepeg.

The Manitoba Free Press, Wed, 29 Sept 1926 p 7 col 3 'Deaths & funerals':

'Mrs Annie Gibson, widow of the late Finlay Gibson, died at St Boniface hospital on Monday. A native of Hamilton Ont she had spent most of her life in Scotland and had resided with her daughter, Mrs William Robson, 197 Hill Street, Norwood, about a year. The funeral will be held at 2 o'clock this afternoon from the Gardiner funeral home to Elmwood cemetery and Rev J E Ramsden will officiate'.

This announcement and the following were received from Denise Neufeld in Canada who also arranged for photos to be taken of the Robson house at 197 Hill Street. 

The Winnipeg Evening Tribune, Wed, 29 Sept, 1926, p 15 col 3 'Deaths':

'GIBSON - Entered late rest on Sept 27 at St Boniface Hospital, Annie Gibson, aged 67 years, widow of the late Finlay Gibson and mother of Mrs Wm. Robson 197 Hill Street ...(illeg) p.m. Wednesday, from the ... (A B? illeg) Gardiner Funeral Home, 172 Kennedy St. Interment in the family plot* at Elmwood Cemetery.'

Acknowledgements: Denise Newfeld

Monday, September 9, 2019

Cape Columbine Lighthouse, Paternoster, West Coast, South Africa


Paternoster, West Coast, South Africa
Latitude   32° 49’ 39” S      Longitude   17 ° 51’ 23” E
Senior Lighthouse Keeper - Japie Greeff
Lighthouse Official - Wayne Brown

Standing on the ship’s bridge with the consistent rise and fall of the ocean swell, one looks landward and sees a windswept headland. This massive granite boulder is Castle Rock and, clinging like a limpet on the rock, stands the comforting sight of the uniquely-designed Cape Columbine Lighthouse, commanding sweeping views across the Atlantic Ocean.  For those on the bridge of a ship, or a sailor at the helm of his fishing boat or yacht, this tall, buttressed tower and powerful light, provides a dependable guardian for this treacherous section of coastline.

The Cape Times edition of 5 October 1936, reported,

There is no part of the South African coastline more dreaded by mariners than the uncertainties of Paternoster, for there are more hidden dangers than at any other locality. Heavy gales and a dangerous and confused sea are encountered through many months in the year and when the wind is not blowing, a fog obscures the whole coastline.’  

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting both Japie Greeff and Wayne Brown in the lighthouse on Castle Rock.  Japie, a man of strong character and integrity, proud and serious, is totally committed to duty, yet with a delightful sense of humour.  Having been a dedicated Lighthouse Keeper for the past 40 years and one of the last to man a light, Japie has made a substantial contribution by providing safety to yachts, fishermen and ships.  The light has guided them with their precious cargoes, passengers and crew when navigating the long, rugged and often extremely dangerous South African coastline.

Reflected in his face were his many proud years of endurance and resolve. The harsh realities of isolation and loneliness, danger and wild weather, and on occasion, shipwrecks and loss of lives, tests one’s courage and strength of character.

Japie entered the Lighthouse Service on 2 July 1979 at Diaz Point Lighthouse, L├╝deritz, Namibia. In subsequent years, he was stationed at Dassen Island, Cape Recife, Cape Point and Pelican Point and took charge as Senior Lighthouse Keeper at Green Point Natal, Cape St Lucia and Cape Columbine. Some of these stations were very isolated and, essential to all Lighthouse Keepers, was the support of family and colleagues, with occasional visits from friends. Keeping constant vigil, exposing him to many unexpected and different situations, his duties would have ensured the searching beams of the lighthouses uninterruptedly swept out across the sea, guiding mariners along their coastal routes.

After chatting with Japie, he introduced us to Wayne, his Lighthouse Assistant, who had been his colleague for many years.  Of interest too, in the visitor reception, were the glass-fronted cabinets displaying Japie’s model aircraft, which had been assembled and painted as a hobby during the free hours in his days.  Our party, including my husband and his cousin, was privileged to be taken on a tour of the immaculately kept and lovingly cared-for interior of the tower.  Everywhere exuded a pride in presentation.

Japie led the way into an inclined passageway of highly polished, wide, green, stairs, connecting the Lighthouse reception room/shop to the foot of the Lighthouse.  The ceiling was gleaming; varnished wood and the side walls were hung with numerous identically-framed photos of various South African Lighthouses. As an aside, Cape Columbine Lighthouse (80m above sea level) was designed by H.C. Cooper, who also designed Cooper Light on the Bluff in Durban (137m). 

Our first stop was the foghorn compressor room with the original equipment which, unfortunately is no longer operational, but still enjoys attention shown in the immaculately maintained paintwork.  A modern electrical foghorn is erected on a large tower a short distance from the lighthouse. An Automatic Identification System (AIS), a tracking system for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data, is installed in the tower, making this the first Lighthouse to have had all three technologies – light, foghorn and AIS - installed during construction. The foghorn is a critical safety component when the dense West Coast fog rolls in. For those sailors finding themselves enclosed by this all-enveloping fog, the regular, haunting sound of the foghorn will guide them away from the dangers of the shoreline. One appreciates that this warning will have saved many lives along this coastline. Thinking of the past, we remember the drowned sailors and unfortunate castaways whose ghosts may still wander the coastline.

The first two levels in the lighthouse are accessed by steep, narrow wooden ladders with no handrails and a trapdoor set into each floor.  As we climbed step-by-step, we were following what each Keeper had been doing day-after-day, whilst going about their duties since October 1936. 

At the second level, we continued our climb up the short, steel, spiral staircase into the lantern room where highly polished brass fittings gleamed and the sun’s ray’s refracted rainbows of colour within the multi-layered Fresnel lens. Gone were the days when the Keeper had to polish the many individual lenses regularly, after being coated with black soot from the burning oil.  Today, the brilliance of the lens, so devotedly cared for, scattered light from the sunbeams streaming through the windows of the lantern room.

At an elevation of 80m above sea level, we had an exceptional and expansive view across the Atlantic Ocean to the clear line of the horizon. One wanted time to stand still as the captivating aura of the lighthouse set high above the ominous black shoreline rocks below, contrasted with the picturesque miles-long white beach as well as the stark inland landscape.  Our imagination took us to the months ahead, when the semi-desert dunes would be transformed by the seasonal blossoming of the desert flowers, transforming this dramatic landscape into a colourful pageant of flowers.

Thank you Japie for a most memorable experience.
Suzanne-Jo Leff Patterson

SV Columbine the British wooden sailing ship launched in 1824, was on a voyage from London to the new British colony of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, with a cargo of mixed goods, beads and religious books. On 31 March 1829 the Columbine ended her days of voyaging when, in the middle of the night she was storm-driven onto the reef 1.5 km north of Cape Columbine Lighthouse.