Monday, 4 July 2016

GRUESOME REALITY.

Sidney Turner, a colonialist in Natal during the late 1800's, made a name for himself by being the first to salvage the wreck of the Grosvenor, an East Indiaman, which foundered off the Wild Coast in 1782. There was rumoured to be treasure on the Grosvenor and Sidney Turner and Lieutenant Beddoes (Durban Volunteer Artillery), 1880, blasted the wreck with dynamite and recovered a large number of antique coins, a third gold and the remainder, silver. This site is on the northern side of the Bay of Mussels some 43 km northeast of Port St Johns. Sidney Turner later established Port Grosvenor nearby, which unfortunately folded due to the political wrangling surrounding jurisdiction of chiefs and the prevailing British Colonial Government. The story of the Grosvenor is well-known and covered in detail on many sites, eg.:

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wreck_of_the_Grosvenor

Sidney Turner sent detailed letters home to his family in England describing his life in the Colony, beautifully captured in the book 'Portrait of a Pioineer" by Daphne Child. These letters included many anecdotal reports about the menacing prevalence of 'man-eating' sharks off river estuaries along the southern Natal  and Wild Coasts. One has the impression reading these diary entries that the shark threat was far greater at the turn of the 19th Century than it is today.

The general shark population was greater then than it is now and one wonders if, to some extent, sharks opportunistically relied on meals in the form of humans deposited into the sea by shipwrecks and capsizing lighters - an almost regular occurrence during this period and prior to that.

Shark attacks off Port St John are still a cause for concern and although far less than Sidney Turner's descriptions and anecdotal figures, still constitute a threat for bathers along the Wild Coast. If Waratah did founder off this stretch of coast I fear that many potential survivors were killed by sharks as much as by the elements. A sad and gruesome reality.


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