The Skeleton Coast reaches from the Kunene River in Angola as far south as Namibia’s Swakopmund, and abuts a harsh inhospitable desert that takes no prisoners. Early morning offshore fogs are common where hot inland winds meet the Benguela current. These have been the nemesis of many fine ships, and brave seafarers overwhelmed by pounding surf.
Forgotten Tales of Skeleton Coast Shipwrecks
Those that made it to the beach were trapped in an hostile wasteland from where it was nigh impossible to relaunch a lifeboat, if by some chance it washed ashore intact. They did not know how to retrieve airborne moisture early in the morning from hollows in the dunes, where to find wholesome nara melons, and how to catch a nutritious scorpion safely by immobilising its deadly tail.
Harsh Desert in the Haze
The shipwrecks they left behind have become their ghostly tombstones and you can visit some, although many are in diamond territory where a skeleton coast patrol on edge is unlikely to believe you are lost. This is not to say there were no survivors. Take for example the remarkable story of the Dunedin Star cargo liner.
She was a fine ship but no match for the harsh fingers of the waves that tore at her 530 foot / 162 metre hull and wrestled her 9-cylinder diesels feeding twin propellers to the ocean floor after she struck an uncharted shoal in 1942. Thus began an epic adventure involving ships, airplanes and overland convoys that you can read about here. On the ground though, it was more a matter of immediate survival.
Skeleton Coast Memories
Their shelters have survived in a desert where footprints and tyre tracks can last for decades too. The survivors were rescued by an overland convoy that travelled for more than a month sustained by airdrops. As the years passed the ocean piled sand around their ship, and she now lies stranded like the whale skeletons that wash up on the skeleton coast beach nearby. If you want to see this for yourself make sure your hire car is a 4×4 with long range tanks and sufficient potable water.
If you’re planning to explore the Skeleton Coast Shipwrecks, arrange your accommodation before you start your trip.