Wednesday, February 17, 2016

4 shipwrecks in 28 hours: July 1872 Natal

This watercolour by Thomas Baines depicts a unique event in the history of Port Natal: the wreck of four wooden sailing vessels on Durban beach within 28 hours. It was another indication  of the dangers of anchoring out in the roadstead where a gale could easily cause high seas resulting in a ship's anchor dragging or her cables parting, leaving her helpless. This problem would not be solved until the harbour entrance was dredged and guarded by breakwaters.

The ships were the Grace Piele, Trinculo, Breidablik and Princess Alice, caught in a north-east gale. The only casualties were two mules, part of a cargo from the Grace Piele, which can be seen being dragged ashore in the foreground. No lives were lost. A large crowd of sightseers gathered on the beach.

The location of the wrecks was near the foot of the present West Street.

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