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I Dream Africa

I Dream Africa

Shipwrecks at Skeleton Coast


Shipwrecks at Skeleton Coast

Dunedin Star

The most famous wreck, and story, is that of the Dunedin Star. On 29 November 1942, the Blue Star Liner, Dunedin Star, headed for the Middle East carrying passengers as well as ammunitions for World War II. It ran aground off the Skeleton Coast. The crew managed to get off a distress signal which was received in the port of Walvis Bay to the south.

The environment was anything but friendly: hot in the day, cold at night, very dry with no friendly little villages to take in the survivors and give them mugs of hot chocolate or medicinal brandy. Everyone was very concerned.

A tug, the Sir Charles Elliot, was dispatched, but ran aground before it reached the Dunedin Star. Two of its crew members jumped overboard but were drowned before they could reach the shore.

A bomber was sent from the Cape of Good Hope to land with supplies and water for the survivors who had made it to shore. It landed, but got stuck in loose sand when trying to take off. A second bomber was sent to replenish supplies. As it did not land, merely dropped its supplies, it had no problems at the site of the wreck. Instead it crashed into the ocean on the way back. Three crewmen made it to shore and began their long walk.

A ship called the Nerina made it to the site, but only managed to pick up 29 survivors. This left 63 on site. A convoy was dispatched from Windhoek but, to the best of my knowledge, had major vehicle difficulties and had to return. A second convoy was sent off and made it to within three kilometers of the survivors. They trudged the rest of the way. One wonders what the survivors had to say when they saw their rescuers arrive on foot. On the way back, they also collected the airman who had swum to shore from the bomber that crashed into the ocean.

The survivors made it back safely some 26 days later, arriving in Windhoek on Christmas Eve. Apparently, you can still see some of the cargo. A memorial was erected in remembrance of the crew members of the tug, Sir Charles Elliot.

Eduard Bohlen

On 5 September 1909 the Eduard Bohlen, a 2 272 ton German passenger / cargo ship, was on a voyage from Swakopmund to Table Bay. On the day the sea and coast was covered in thick fog. The 310.6 ft ship lost its way and ran aground at Conception Bay about 150 km from Swakopmund. On 5 September 2009, exactly a century ago, this tragic drama occurred. The wreck of the Eduard Bohlen is a desert icon, it lies 800 m inland, and one of the most photographed shipwrecks. This wreck is said to personify the loneliness of Namibia’s coast best. Its remains lie rusting in the sand, partially buried.


The Otavi shipwreck lies in Spencer Bay, Namibia (Skeleton Coast), which ran aground in 1945. Spencer Bay is the place surfers would call “the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”, but it is on private diamond mining property so access is permitted to anyone.


The 1976 shipwreck of the Shaunee, a fishing trawler, nosed into the dunes at Conception Bay. In the former diamante rush era of Namibian History, Conception Bay was the entrance towards the old mining towns of Grillenberger, Holstazia and Charlottenfelder.
Natal Coast:

A 3,078 ton Durban coaster steamer that went aground near Walvis Bay (north of Swakopmund, South-West Africa) circa 1954. The crew of 35 abandoned the ship, which was pounded by heavy seas, only a few hundred yards from the shore. It was told that the crew on this ship was not permitted off the ship until armed guards arrived to prevent sailors from picking up diamonds which were all over the beach

The Winston

The wreck of the Winston is one of the few wrecks still to be seen along the coast, is situated about 23 km north of Mile 108.

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