WRECK OF THE THERMOPYLAE – A CAPE TOWN SENSATION!

This was how the demise of the ‘SS Thermopylae’ was reported in the
Cape Times in September 1899.

Shortly after 11 oclock last night, residents at Green and Sea
Points were preparing to retire when the silence of the night was
broken by shrill screams of a siren. Curious persons, thus
disturbed, looking out of doors and windows, saw the mast head and
starboard lights of a large steamer stationery under the lights of
the Mouille Point lighthouse.

A rocket rose high into the sky and the cry, “She’s ashore”, at
once arose. The red and green lights shed ghastly radiance over the
tumbling surf and rolling sea.

A minute later and from the stern of the steamer shot up one of the
detonating rockets which told the onlookers that help was sorely
needed. About 200 people in a variety of costumes hastily donned
hurried down to the lighthouse and out on the slip where the
outfall sewer is being constructed, whence the trouble was plainly
perceived and which has been the undoing of many vessels who have
hugged the coast too closely.

Speculation was rife. Who is she? Was the query on both sides.
The Briton said one. Impossible, said another. The mail isn’t
due yet and this vessel only has one funnel, said another.

The siren was heard at the police station in Three Anchor Bay and
Sergeant Hunter immediately telephoned the docks for the harbour
tug. Constables Leinster and Fowler rushed down to the shed where
the boat owned by Bertie Roux is kept.

This was how the demise of the ‘SS Thermopylae’ was reported in the
Cape Times.

She presented a yacht-like appearance, being a three-masted clipper
bowed steamer, she carried yards on the foremast and often used
sail.

Homeward bound from Australia she was shipwrecked on a reef in
thick fog at Green Point at the western entrance to Table Bay, Cape
Town, South Africa on the 11th September 1899. Two racehorses
‘Chesney’ and ‘Kiera’ although injured, were saved as were all the
passengers and crew. The ship also carried a valuable cargo
including nearly 8,000 copper ingots, 5,000 bars of bullion and ten
boxes of gold valued at £50,000.

Built for the Aberdeen White Star Line she would not have been
fully insured as the owners would have taken the risk of loss
themselves. Having cost upwards of 80,000 to build, the owners
George Thompson & Co. would have been lucky to recoup a quarter of
this from insurers.

At the subsequent Marine Court of Enquiry, Captain W Phillips
master certificate was suspended for six months.

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Barry Blomkamp Nd. Bsc (UL)
Professional Public Speaker, Trainer and Corporate Entertainer,
Motivational speaker, Guest & Key note speaker, Seminar &
Conference speaker, Team Builder, Comedian, Master of Ceremonies,

For your Strategic Planning sessions, Management or Sales meetings,
Conferences and/or Seminars, Award functions, Year end parties,
Christmas parties,

Cape Town, South Africa.

2 thoughts on “WRECK OF THE THERMOPYLAE – A CAPE TOWN SENSATION!

  1. About 1969 + _ driving to work on DeWaal drive I heard on the radio that a ship had gone aground off Moulie Point. When I arrived there helicopters were lifting people off the Seafarer which had run aground in the exact spot. Terrible winds and the pilots of the Alouwetts (spelling) were fantastic all saved.

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