Friday, 18 April 2014

Anecdote Saturday - SS Meliskerk (e)

The Meliskerk, a steel hull cargo vessel, was built in Hamburg, 1919. She was almost the length of the Waratah, 450 ft, with gross tonnage 5919, and powered by a quadruple expansion steam engine, making 12.5 knots. The Meliskerk was initially known as the DADG76, and later the Cesario. In 1921 she was bought by the United Stoomvaartmaatschappij, Dutch Africa Line, and renamed SS Meliskerke.

January 1943, under the command of Captain Brouwer, and loaded with 11 000 tons of ammunition, tanks and three aircraft, steamed along the Wild Coast, South Africa. In an attempt to avoid enemy submarines, the Meliskerk hugged the coast. Northeast of Port St Johns, between the mouths of the Umzimvubu and Mzintlava Rivers, she struck a reef and foundered rapidly in 15 m of water.

Salvage attempts recovered 500 tons of cargo but rough seas caused ammunition to explode, disrupting further efforts. The wreck of the Meliskerk is a popular diving site and home to a unique array of marine life. The reefs close to shore northeast of Cape Hermes and Port St Johns have snatched a number of vessels including the Grosvenor and Waratah. Google earth clearly demonstrates these reefs with gulleys slicing into the submarine rocky outcrops. It's time to renew efforts to find the Waratah.

SS Meliskerk in Cape Town harbour

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