Ordeal of the Seafarer – 1st July, 1966

For those interested in history and specifically helicopter
rescue, here is a fantastic link to a short news video clip of
one of South Africa’s great sea rescues. the British Movietone
Newsreel called : Ordeal of The Seafarer.


Cape Town has many shipwrecks along its coastline. The shipwreck
that we are writing about is one of the more modern wrecks that
happened in Cape Town where the ship was wrecked and there was no
loss of life. The SS South African Seafarer ran aground in a
terrible winter storm about 50 metres off the Green Point
Lighthouse on the 1st of July 1966.

It’s the middle of winter here in South Africa and the time for
some of the severest north easterly storms to hit our coastline.

On this particular day the Seafarer was caught in a storm and she
was too close to the coastline and paid the penalty for her error
in judgement. The wind and waves forced it ashore and it landed up
on the rocks with mountainous waves breaking over it. On board were
63 crew members and 12 passengers who had no hope of survival due
to the heavy seas.

The South African Air Force were requested to help in the emergency
and sent out a couple of Alouette helicopters to assist in the
rescue. The pilots managed to rescue everybody on board and land
them safely on the lawns in front of the Green Point Lighthouse. It
was a miracle that nobody lost their lives that day as the strong
winds made life very difficult for the pilots to hover above the
stricken ship and lift the people off.

The pilots involved in the rescue were awarded medals for bravery.

With the continual pounding of the waves the ship soon broke up
and sank leaving its cargo to the mercy of the sea. What’s left of
the cargo is now spread around the wreck site.

On board the Seafarer was a consignment of miniature white plastic
horses. They were about thumbnail size.

When the ship broke up they were released into the sea and washed
up along the Table Bay coastline.

I remember walking along the beach and picking up hundreds of
them.They were put to many uses by the locals and many ended up on
the edges of cotton doilies after having the oil boiled off them.

Today, 50 years later the remains of the wreck of the Seafarer
still lie strewn on the sea bed about 50 metres off the lighthouse.

The sea bed resembles a junkyard, with the huge propeller shaft and
countless unidentifiable machine parts lying around. Shortly after
the wrecking of the ship all non ferrous fittings were removed from
the wreck site. Most divers want to see a ship lying on the bottom
but are disappointed when visiting the Seafarer. There is nothing
ship shape at the site.

Because of this not many divers visit the site and this means that
there is still a lot of exploring to be done.

There could still be some interesting artefacts lying on the sea
bottom for divers to find. For those who might be interested in
diving the site, the ship lies in water which is about 5 metres
deep about 50 metres off the coast.

To reach the wreck one needs to go to the site by boat from Three
Anchor Bay or from the V & A Waterfront.

I’m sure that using a little ingenuity a determined diver could
swim to the site from the beach.

Geoff Fairman


Barry: I clearly remember the saga as it was after school & Dad
packed the family into the Opel Caravan and with a picnic supper,
we watched with huge eyes, the choppers working right into the dusk
of the evening. As regards the little plastic white horses, I’ve
heard a rumour/myth they were to do with a White Horse Whisky
promotion and if dropped into a glass of whisky, they reputedly
changed colour if it was watered down!.

Blogger Barry: Thanks for your time. Hope you enjoyed. Please
use the comment and follow buttons.

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.

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