The Meisho Maru No. 38 shipwreck

A visit to the Southern Most tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas National Park is not complete if you don’t walk a little further on and visit the shipwreck of the Meisho Maru No 38, a Japanese fishing trawler that succumbed to the mighty two ocean meeting point on the 16th of November 1982. Only half the ship remains and it is now a great roosting place for the resident cormorants.

Happy Cormorant colony
Cape Cormorant

White-breasted Cormorant
This area of South Africa’s coastline has claimed 250 vessels over the years and the Cape Agulhas lighthouse was eventually built in 1848 and was the 2nd one to be built in South Africa.  The coastline here is a graveyard of shipwrecks. The sea off Cape Agulhas has long been notorious with sailors for winter storms and massive rogue waves, which can even sink large ships. The Arniston (1815), Cooranga (1964), Elise (1879), European (1877), Federal Lakes (1975), Geortyrder (1849), Gouritz (1981), and Gwendola (1968) are just a few of the vessels lost along this coast. Showpieces from some of these shipwrecks are on display at the Bredasdorp Shipwreck museum. 

Although we couldn’t get into it due to renovations that are currently going on, this lighthouse is a national monument and has a museum and a small rustic restaurant.  It was built after the Arniston shipwreck and has 71 steps to the top of the 2nd oldest working lighthouse in Southern Africa.  Stone mined from an adjacent limestone quarry provided the raw materials for its construction. 

Cape Agulhas was named Cabo das Agulhas or the “Cape of Needles”  by the early Portuguese explorers.   A strange magnetic anomaly means that compasses here point true North rather than magnetic North. Unfortunately we were not able to test this claim and will make sure to take a compass with us for our next visit.

While we were looking around the rock pools, we found two beautiful Leopard catsharks (Poroderma pantherinum) dead in a pool.  I can only assume some fishermen caught them and disposed of them there instead of putting them back in the ocean.  They live at 250m depth so are not meant to be in a shallow rock pool.  I hate seeing such amazing creatures killed for no reason.

Another bird that was seen is the African Black Oystercatcher, a shore bird that was on the brink of being threatened but which has now come back in great numbers due to great conservation efforts, most notably the banning of driving on beaches and sand dunes.  These beautiful birds nest on the dunes and the vehicles were destroying them completely.  Thankfully that is all a thing of the past.  This one has a ring but unfortunately I couldn’t see any numbers.

African Black Oystercatcher

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