Shipwrecks on Skeleton Coast

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.

Skeleton Coast Shipwrecks: Anonymous Wreck
Anonymous Wreck

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.

Skeleton Coast Shipwrecks: Coast of Skeletons
Coast of Skeletons

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.

Skeleton Coast Shipwrecks: Dunedin Star
Dunedin Star 1942

Dunedin Star

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.

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Remains of Survivor Camp

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.

Skeleton Coast Shipwrecks: Dunedin Star 2014
Dunedin Star 2014

If you’re planning to explore the Skeleton Coast Shipwrecks, arrange your accommodation before you start your trip.

About Richard Farrell

Richard Farrell

I tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.

My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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