Friday, June 29, 2018

Maritime Adventures at Natal 3: 4 ships wrecked in 28 hours, 1872

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, in June 1872. 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 lighthouse can be seen at the seaward end of the Bluff.

The location of the wrecks was near the foot of what would later be named West Street.

Captain Bell was not at hand to assist: he had died in 1869. 

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