Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Iris arrival at Natal 2 January 1852

Passengers per ship Iris as reported in the Natal Witness
2 Jan 1852.

Note Miss Shuttleworth among the passengers. The Shuttleworths became a prominent family in Natal. Linked to this family is Mark Shuttleworth, born in Welkom, Free State in 1973, who became the first citizen of an independent African country to travel to space as a space tourist - 
Time in space
9d 21h 25m
MissionsSoyuz TM-34/TM-33

Monday, October 16, 2017

Danube and other arrivals at Natal July 1880

Passengers per Danube and other vessels
The Natal Witness July 1880

Passengers arriving at Durban in the 1880s were still landed by baskets like this one, which can be seen at the Natal Maritime Museum.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Steerage passengers to Natal on Priscilla

The barque Priscilla

Priscilla brings Government Emigrants to Natal 1860.
Fortunately these steerage passengers are named - this wasn't always the case. Family historians would prefer to have the children's names included.

'To sailors, three things made a ship a clipper. She must be sharp-lined, built for speed. She must be tall-sparred and carry the utmost spread of canvas. And she must use that sail, day and night, fair weather and foul.'

Optimized for speed, they were too fine-lined to carry much cargo. Clippers typically carried extra sails such as skysails and moonrakers on the masts, and studdingsails on booms extending out from the hull or yards, which required extra hands to handle them. And in conditions where other ships would shorten sail, clippers drove on, heeling so much that their lee rails were in the water.

Not the most comfortable ride for passengers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Durban harbour still hazardous: container ship stuck in entrance channel

Hot on the heels of my post about the hazards of Durban Harbour in the 1860s came a much more recent example in the shape of a container ship blown sideways in the tremendous gale of 10 October (yesterday), causing the vessel to become stuck across the harbour entrance resulting in a major difficulty for other shipping trying to enter or leave the port. 

Spectacular video footage can be seen on a number of sites, so I won't post any videos here.
Have a look at

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Durban: the Bar hazardous for shipping; 1860s

This photograph of the Point, Durban, can be dated to the 1860s because the steam paddle tug Pioneer (the port's first tug, arrived 1860) is included at left - with her distinctive funnel and flag flying astern. If you look closely at the tug you can see the shaped housing for the paddle wheel.

The other shipping consists of sailing vessels, though a regular mail service by the steamer Sir Robert Peel had commenced in 1852 between Durban and Cape Town. Among the structures clustered on the shifting dunes the Point (the spit of land at right, projecting into the bay) are the Customs House and warehouses. There were no wharves or jetties (if your settler ancestors arrived at Natal by ship they would have got their feet wet). In the distance are the hills of the Berea - not a building in sight at that date. The entrance channel is in the foreground. The picture is taken from the Bluff.

Though Durban had potential as a harbour, it wasn't until various harbour works and the building of piers by a number of marine engineers such as Milne and Vetch, as well the introduction of dredging (to remove sand), that the port became safe and useful for shipping.

'Nature guarded its entrance in the form of shifting sandbanks which made access to the safety of the inner harbor unpredictable and hazardous. As a result entry was restricted to small vessels drawing less than three metres of water. All other shipping had to anchor offshore and endure the extremes of wind and sea. Not surprisingly 66 ships were blown ashore on Durban’s beachfront between 1845 and 1885.' (Source:

Local newspapers of that era regularly reported on 'the state of the Bar' and how ships were navigating in and out of the entrance, or waiting in the 'roads' for suitable conditions for entry. While ships were 'outside' they were subject to weather and wind and often came to grief on the rocks below the Bluff, or were grounded on the beach.

Natal Mercury 9 Aug 1860
A bar is a shoal, similar to a reef: a shallow formation of (usually) sand that is a navigation or grounding hazard, with a depth of water of 6 fathoms (11 metres) or less.

The Dutch ship Hermanus Izaak, on this occasion, 'touched on the Bar though drawing only eight feet of water'.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Passengers to Natal 12 July 1880: Nyanza, Venice, Umzinto

RMS Nyanza: Passengers on Deck 1877 (note, earlier date than the settlers of Willowfountain)

For further information on the Willowfountain/Wilgefontein settlers who came to Natal on the Nyanza in 1880, see

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Passenger arrivals Natal April 1859

Shipping column from The Natal Mercury 14 April 1859
Note that, as usual, the rank and file of troops on board the transport
Himalaya are not individually named.
Two Dutch ships, the Hermanus Isaak and the Jan Van Brakel,
 part of the New Guelderland emigration scheme arranged by Colenbrander,
are mentioned under Vessels Expected.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Passenger arrivals Natal October 1880

Shipping Intelligence 1880 Dane, Quathlamba, Moor passenger arrivals

 Natal Witness 7 Oct 1880

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Parker Wood and Company, Durban, early 20th c.

Parker Wood and Co., Point, Durban
The name of this company comes up frequently in Natal newspapers
and other sources such as deceased estates. Their building reflects the size
and importance of the company.