Thursday, January 13, 2011

With Our Own Ship To Africa

The Nolloth – formerly the Reality

"When I was 14, I sailed – with my parents on my father's ship – to Cape Town from where my father exercised a year-long charter supplying the diamond mines in the Namibian desert for De Beers Consolidated Mines.

"But I'm getting ahead of myself. I come from a seafaring family. My grandfather owned two tugs and a restaurant in Delfzijl. My father served as a captain for a shipping company, Dudok de Wit of Amsterdam. His first command was the 'Martha', which had survived the war. His first new ship was the 'Maria Theresia', built at Sander Delfezijl. He ran a regular service shipping china clay from Delfzijl to Stettin. He quickly moved on to new ships built by Groot and Van Vliet Slikkerveer, carrying wood from Cork to Hamina, Finland. The 'Marvelettes', 'Martin', 'Marathon' and other ships followed. By 1952, my father had had enough and bought his own ship, the 'Leuvehaven', formerly 'Alpha'. He bought it ship as a wreck from the Sanders shipyard, which restored it. There are nice pictures on your site of the 'Reality', as the ship was renamed.

"It was in this boat that the family set sail for South Africa. the entire household packed into a container in the hold. Being 14, it was quite an experience for me and I missed a lot of school, leaving a month before the holidays started. The 'Reality', a sweet little ship, was a good, solid vessel able to deal with rough seas. She was capable of eight knots, but slowed to two when running into the headwinds and high Atlantic swells. She did extremely well during her years rounding the Cape of Good Hope and sailing up to Lorenzo Marques in Mozambique, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Port Nolloth, and Walvis Bay in Namibia.

"We sailed mostly to Port Nolloth, supplying the mines in the desert. The ship was chosen for the job because she was apparently of a suitable length and draft. To enter the port and overcome a shifting shoal or sandbar, we'd have to wait for high tide and – to avoid running aground – we'd run in at full speed on a following swell, before cutting the engine and sailing in. We'd tie up at the jetty where we filled and unloaded barrels of petrol and general cargo for the diamond mines, before visiting the town. Side on to the ocean, the ship lurched against the jetty. The Dutch coaster 'FREAN', which could not be salvaged, lay stranded by bad weather on the Port Nolloth shore.

"With the charter renewed annually for eight years, we lived and worked with great pleaure in a beautiful country with incredible natural variation.

The 1965 wreck of the 'Nolloth' – her bow gone ...
"Unfortunately, you also have pictures on your site of our shipwreck.

"In 1963 (sic), we left Cape Town for Durban in terribly bad, stormy weather. We sailed painfully slowly. At 01:00 or 02:00 that night we started shipping water and after about an hour the bilge pump gave up. Within two hours, we had taken on two meters of water. The vessel was very sluggish and we all went to the wheelhouse where, miraculously and with the engine still running, my father was fortunately able to steer the vessel clear of the coast. All we could do was pray that the engine would not stall. There were other ships in the vicinity but, given the severity of the weather, they could do nothing to assist. Our luck gave out. I will never forget the sound of the ship smacking the beach. It's not something you want to experience. We were afraid that the foremast had snapped but, fortunately, it had not. Daylight brought a South African Navy helicopter that skillfully lifted us off in a strengthening gale and set us ashore.

"Yes – we had to say goodbye to the 'Nolloth'. Do you know what it's like hearing of such a ship after all these years – a ship with which you shared joys and sorrows to last a lifetime? Two days later, we left for the Netherlands. I am now 64-years old and it's been good. My parents are long deceased and I have not returned. This was my story in short – otherwise you would have too much. I wish you great success with your wonderful photos and information."

The 'Nolloth' today – still with a story to tell ...

J.K.van der Luit tells the story of the 1963 Olifantsbospunt wreck of the 347-ton coaster, the 'Nolloth' to shipping site Uit Vervlogen Tijden's Bob van Raad. [Translation by Google and bing]

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Baboon Matters ...

A chacma baboon takes flight in the intertidal zone while searching for food at Olifantsbos, January 9, 2011 [inverted reflection]

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Full Circle

Aladdin's Cave, The Coves ...

I didn't think twice about sticking my head into the small hole in the rock face above the sea surging into the channel carved into Cape Point. Whether my disdain for caution resulted from impetuosity or spontaneity does not interest me. What I found on that day in 2007 did. The lower lip of the rock stretched into the rock face, beneath the roof of the channel, to form a small balcony above a multihued chamber of startling beauty. I crawled into the hole with my camera and tripod and, in a remarkably tight space buffeted by blasts of compressed, humid air, drenching spray and a deafening, often thunderous and thoroughly unpredictable roar, set up a couple of shots of a place I was convinced had not yet been viewed or appreciated.

Several months later, a colleague spotted my picture of 'Aladdin's Cave' on our shared organisational network and brought in several copies of Full Circle, a high-circulation, glossy, community magazine distributed free to people living in the southern Cape Peninsula. A virtually identical photograph of 'my' cave appeared on the cover of the April 2007 issue [Flash req'd].

I was enraged and, paging to the accompanying story, determined to find out who the bastards were who had dared trample my corner of Heaven.

The article, written by editor Sean Houghton and accompanied by walking companion Bruce Stevens's stunning photographs, immediately ameliorated my instant of umbrage. It was apparent that Full Circle had visited that particularly treacherous stretch of coast for much the same reason I spend so much of my time there. It forms an under-appreciated part of the immense beauty surrounding Capetonians, visible only to those who actively seek it beneath the tourist-friendly veneer of city of many splendours.

Since reading that article and those in other issues my colleagues were able to feed me – Full Circle had been in existence for four years by then, I've found myself tracking and tracing Sean and Bruce up, over, across and around the Peninsula, only occasionally beating them to areas unspoiled by hordes of tourists or loutish locals impervious to the notion our natural heritage might need care if we're to preserve it.

A hallmark of Full Circle's articles is an emphasis on a respect for both our environment and the safety of those who might choose to follow in Houghton and Stevens's footsteps. Another is the way they resonate with an insatiable curiosity and an active seeking out of fresh spots of unspoilt grandeur. A natural consequence of the Full Circle duo's ventures – it seems nature's secrets are best kept in virtually inaccessible spots – was the gradual introduction of the word 'hiking' to their articles. As fit and healthy as they might have become over the years, I do not regard Sean and Bruce as 'hikers'. Instead, I will continue to accord them the respect due walkers – who constitute a more dignified, noble coterie of natural scholars.

Hikers of my acquaintance tend to be finely muscled athletes wielding pogo sticks. They bound through the bush in bubble shoes with nary a glance at their surrounds, jabbering away on cellphones or listening to music on devices that hold their heads together with earphones. Hikers are always eager to reach their destination at a time tailored to their next appointment.

With our paths crossing so frequently, it was inevitable that Full Circle and I should meet. The short piece featured here is the result [Flash req'd].

Now, most would argue that a contribution to a community magazine is not exactly the stuff of which the most scintillating CVs are made. I'd answer – first – that such an opinion might be valid for now; but it won't be for much longer. Also, I don't give a damn. There is more at stake here. I'd put it that an invitation to contribute to a section of a magazine that has, since it first saw the light of day and with few exceptions, been the preserve of its editor and his photographer is no small honour.

And that is worth a hell of a lot more to me than a couple of bucks a word and licensing fees.

Secondly, Full Circle is one of a select group of publications shaping a sustainable publishing model for the South African print media. Located in a community from which it draws the advertising revenue financing it, it feeds high-quality, durable content back into that community at no cost. Respected, its advertising – already focused – is effective. And as its revenue base grows, so does its ability to generate content.

Thirdly, it represents a move to open-access publishing. Like Google, a search engine complemented by value-added apps and services obscuring its core service, it derives its revenue from advertising while offering complemetary and and supplementary services. Originally distributed only across the southern Peninsula, it recently surmounted an obstacle not faced by Web-based firms – the print, advertising sales and distribution costs incurred launching an equally relevant, community-based northern edition.

Whereas Google merely changes its algorithms to suit its markets, Full Circle changes its content and packaging. Practically, it's a lot more work. However, it's likely to prove an immensely worthwhile strategy. By entrenching itself in the communities supporting it, it constitutes the most effective platform for SME-based print advertising.

Finally, the Internet plays an enormous role in its growth strategy. By publishing free to the Web and optimizing its site as time goes by, it's now set to leap several degrees of separation by taking advantage of social networking applications like Facebook and Twitter. In giving away content, it's simultaneously giving its advertisers far greater and wider exposure than they would have enjoyed had they limited their adspend to print or paywalls.

I could continue. Just as my little cameras have led me a circuitous dance around the Cape Peninsula, uncovering old or beating fresh paths, I find my simultaneous, loose, three-year association with Full Circle's willingness to explore the tried and untested, be it natural or online, significant. Taking photographs of unusual places can be hugely rewarding, but it is also extremely hard work. Full Circle's seven-year publishing history reminds us that the hard work precedes the reward.

I enjoy associating with such people – individuals prepared to work hard to realise an idea – especially when their ideas spring to mind at the most unlikely times in the most unusual places. For example, when sticking their heads into a hole in a rock perched above the wild and oft-dangerous Cape Peninsula coast.

The uploads of Full Circle's Banner, the April 2007 cover, and photographer Bruce Stevens sticking his head into a hole in the rock – it's not all that dignified, is it?; now imagine dragging your body in after it – remain copyright of Full Circle Magazine and are reproduced here in the spirit of Fair Use.