Monday, December 17, 2018

Wreck of Ovington Court off Durban 26 November 1940

The Ovington Court was a 6000-ton cargo freighter with a crew of 38 which arrived off Durban with a cargo of sugar [worth £22000] from Mauritius sometime before 25 November 1940 and anchored in the outer anchorage together with a large number of other ships which were waiting to gain entry to the port.The ship's anchor dragged that evening at around 6pm in the very heavy surf and the ship began to drift towards the beach which it struck about four hours later.

The Natal Mercury on the 26th November gives a brilliant description of the scene as the ship drifted towards the beach with a searchlight on the Bluff casting a "blue glare, silhouetting the foam-topped waves and bringing the vessel out in relief against the blackness of the sea". So many people arrived at the beach that soldiers and sailors had trouble keeping them from hindering the rescue operation.

It was then decided by Captain George Linsell [Linsdell??] of the Ovington Court to abandon ship and pack as many of the crew as possible into the two available lifeboats which were to use the two ropes to get themselves safely to shore. The Mercury records that a wave of cheering went up from the beach as the first boat was sighted making its way to the beach where a magnesium flare had been lit by rescue workers.

The first boat landed safely but tragedy struck soon afterwards when the second, and smaller, boat capsized soon after being launched from the ship throwing its 12 occupants into the water. Municipal and voluntary lifesavers and members of the public immediately took to the sea with lifelines and eventually managed to recover all twelve of the victims but four of them later died in Addington Hospital. The Mercury lists the dead as having been cabin boy Gordon Hunter, aged 15, Michael Kennedy, Mahomed Abdoo Shaali and Said Ben Said.
The remaining eight men on the Ovington Court waited out the night on board and were then all brought to shore one by one in a breeches buoy. Following the tradition of the sea, Captain Lindsell was the last person to leave his ship and arrived ashore complete with the ship's monkey in his arms. 

There does seem to be a mystery about why there wasn't enough steam pressure to allow Ovington Court to steam away from the beach. Another issue was raised in the Mercury's leading article on the 27th November which asked the hard question why a tug was not made available in the four or so hours while the Ovington Court was adrift. The writer concluded that an inquiry was needed to determine the responsibility for this and for the unreasonable delays experienced by shipping waiting for bunkers [coal].


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Biophysicist Aaron Klug: Durban High School student and graduate of Cape Town University won the Nobel Prize 1982

[From The Guardian]

Denounced as a 'communist' by the South African Government, Klug was refused entry into the US, continuing his studies in the UK. Later he steered the scientific community's response to major upheavals including the Human Genome Project. He died in November 2018 aged 92. Born in Lithuania, his father was a cattle drover who, with his family, emigrated to South Africa when Aaron was two years old.

Acknowledgement: Roger Grant

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas 1911

Christmas Family Group 1911 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Gardiner Street, Durban Railway Station and first Town Hall

Gardiner Street, Durban, with double-decker trams, rickshas, horse-drawn carriage and pedestrians. Background left, the Railway Station, right the old Town Hall (built 1885), later the Post Office. Dead Man's Tree, where funeral notices - white edged with black - were posted is seen at right on pavement in front of old Town Hall.

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