What is the Sacramento cannon aiming at?

The name Sacramento is synonymous with Schoenmakerskop. There is the Sacramento Trail, the Sacramento cannon and the Sacramento Restaurant. But what is the Sacramento. She was a Portuguese galleon that aground just off Schoenmakerskop outside Port Elizabeth on 30 June 1647 in foul weather. By the time she hit the rocky coastline, she had a badly damaged rudder and her sails were in tatters. 72 of the crew made it ashore and set off towards Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), 1400km away.

The Sacramento was heavily loaded with a cargo of bronze cannons cast in Macao and destined for Portugal. The cannon lay undisturbed on the ocean bed for 330 years until 40 of them were salvaged in 1977.

One of the original Sacramento guns stand at the west side of Schoenmakerskop pointing in the direction of where she met her fate.

Shipwreck memorial in South End Cemetery

Probably the biggest maritime disaster that ever took place on the Port Elizabeth coastline happened way back during the Great Gale of 1902.  On Sunday, 31 August 1902 there were 38 ships at anchor along the then North End Beach.  Rain and a south-easterly wind started to lash the bay and by midnight the storm turned into a hurricane.  By the end of the storm on 2 September 1902, 18 of the ships had been stranded on the beach, while the rest all had major damage.  The dead were buried in the South End Cemetery and thousands lined the route to the cemetery as the funeral processions went by with surviving ship-mates carrying the coffins of those that died during the storm.  A memorial stands in the South End Cemetery with all the names of those who died during the storm.

Bayworld’s Sacramento canon

The Shipwreck Hall in the Port Elizabeth Museum at Bayworld has some excellent information on shipwrecks around Port Elizabeth.  The displays contain a lot of artifacts salvaged from wrecks like the Sacramento, Amsterdam and Doddington.  One of the items that form the centerpiece display is a cannon salvaged from the wreck site of the Portuguese galleon Sacramento near Schoenmakerskop in the 1970’s.  The Sacramento ran aground in a storm on this coastline in 1647 with 72 survivors making it to land before staring their 1400km walk to present day Maputo.

The remains of the Oceanos lifeboat at Schoenmakerskop

It’s been a few years since I’ve been down to the remains of the Oceanos lifeboat at Schoenies, so last Sunday I decided to head on over and take a walk down for a change again.  
4 August 1991 was a dramatic and fateful day on the Eastern Cape coastline with the sinking of the MTS Oceanos on the Wild Coast close to Coffee Bay, east of East London.  After all 571 passengers on board were rescued, some of the lifeboats floated south-west along the ocean currents with one of them washing up on the coastline at Schoenmakerskop.  It landed up on the rocks in a marshy area on the eastern side of the village and has become fairly overgrown over the years.  
The Oceanos set out from East London on her way to Durban on 3 August 1991.  She headed into 40-knot winds and 9 m (30 ft) swells.  At about 21:30 while off the Wild Coast, a muffled explosion was heard and the Oceanos lost her power following a leak in the engine room.  The ship’s Chief Engineer reported to Captain Yiannis Avranas that water was entering the hull and flooding the generator room.  The generators were shut down because the rising water would have short circuited them. The ship was left adrift.  Realising the fate of the ship, the crew fled in panic.  No alarm was raised and passengers remained ignorant of the events taking place until they witnessed the first signs of flooding in the lower decks.  At this stage, eyewitness accounts reveal that many of the crew, including Captain Avranas, were already packed and ready to depart, seemingly unconcerned with the safety of the passengers.
Nearby vessels responded to the ship’s SOS and were the first to provide assistance. The South African Navy along with the South African Air Force launched a seven-hour mission in which 16 helicopters were used to airlift the passengers and crew to nearby settlements.  All 571 people on board were saved with a group of entertainment staff, under the leadership of Moss Hills, organizing the orderly evacuation of passengers by the helicopters.  The shipwreck is possibly the most recent instance where women and children were given priority when loading the lifeboats.  The entertainers were the last of the passengers lifted off the ship. 
The information is courtesy of Wikipedia

Cape Recife beacon

The beacon out at Cape Recife is one of two beacons that was used for shipping purposes before the invention of modern navigation technology.  The second beacon is the one on Marine Drive where Admiralty Road and Marine Drive comes together.  Ships sailing along the coast from the west had to line up the two beacons before they could turn into Algoa Bay.  This ensured that they were well clear of Thunderbolt Reef at the point as well as the reefs inside the bay itself.

Meet the Amsterdam

The Port Elizabeth Museum at Bayworld has an excellent exhibit of artifacts and pieces from the Dutch ship Amsterdam that ran aground close to the mouth of the Swartkops River in 1817.  The ship, captained by Hermanus Hofmeijer, hit a fierce storm in 1817 with the wind ripping apart the sails and snapping the masts.  After eleven hours of fighting to keep her afloat the battle was lost and the captain decided to run her aground between the Zwartkops and Coega rivers.  Only three of the 223 men aboard were lost.  At that stage Port Elizabeth didn’t exist as a town yet and only consisted of a fort and garrison so the crew were taken to Uitenhage before sailing back to the Netherlands a month later.

Sacramento cannon at Bayworld

The Shipwreck Hall in the Port Elizabeth Museum at Bayworld has some excellent information on shipwrecks around Port Elizabeth.  The displays contain a lot of artifacts salvaged from wrecks like the Sacramento, Amsterdam and Doddington.  One of the items that form the centerpiece display is a cannon salvaged from the wreck site of the Portuguese galleon Sacramento near Schoenmakerskop in the 1970’s.  The Sacramento ran aground in a storm on this coastline in 1647 with 72 survivors making it to land before staring their 1400km walk to present day Maputo.

Bayworld exhibit of the wreck of the Amsterdam

One of the best know shipwrecks around Port Elizabeth is that of the Dutch Sailing Amsterdam that ran around close to the mouth of the Swartkops River in 1817.  People may not necessarily know much of the wreck, but the fact that Amsterdam Hoek along the banks of the Swartkops is named after the ship helps.
The ship, captained by Hermanus Hofmeijer, hit a fierce storm in 1817 with the wind ripping apart the sails and snapping the masts.  After eleven hours of fighting to keep her afloat the battle was lost and the captain decided to run her aground between the Zwartkops and Coega rivers.  Only three of the 223 men aboard were lost.  At that stage Port Elizabeth didn’t exist as a town yet and only consisted of a fort and garrison so the crew were taken to Uitenhage before sailing back to the Netherlands a month later.
The Port Elizabeth Museum at Bayworld has an excellent exhibit of artifacts and pieces from the ship and any local interested in the history of the Port Elizabeth area would really enjoy the what is on display.

Remains of a lifeboat

At the eastern end of Schoenmakerskop you will find one of the lifeboats from the Oceanos that sank on the Wild Coast in 1991.  Personally I think its quite a significant “wreck” on our coastline.  Going the other way, about halfway along the Sacramento Trail west of Schoenies, there is what also looks like the remains of a lifeboat.  Some of the knowledgable locals may know where its from, but I just thought it made for an interesting object to include in a photograph.

Oceanos Lifeboat

4 August 1991 was a dramatic and fateful day on the Eastern Cape coastline with the sinking of the MTS Oceanos on the Wild Coast close to Coffee Bay, east of East London.  What does this have to do with Port Elizabeth, you ask?  After all 571 passengers on board was rescued, some of the lifeboats floated south-west along the ocean currents with one of them washing up on the coastline at Schoenmakerskop.  I got to visit the lifeboat for the first time the other day while searching for a geocache in the area.  Its situated in a marshy section of the coastline and is fairly overgrown, but I’m glad I finally got to visit it as its been on my “to do” list for quite some time now.

The Oceanos set out from East London on her way to Durban on 3 August 1991.  She headed into 40-knot winds and 9 m (30 ft) swells.  At about 21:30 while off the Wild Coast, a muffled explosion was heard and the Oceanos lost her power following a leak in the engine room.  The ship’s Chief Engineer reported to Captain Yiannis Avranas that water was entering the hull and flooding the generator room.  The generators were shut down because the rising water would have short circuited them. The ship was left adrift.  Realising the fate of the ship, the crew fled in panic.  No alarm was raised and passengers remained ignorant of the events taking place until they witnessed the first signs of flooding in the lower decks.  At this stage, eyewitness accounts reveal that many of the crew, including Captain Avranas, were already packed and ready to depart, seemingly unconcerned with the safety of the passengers.

Nearby vessels responded to the ship’s SOS and were the first to provide assistance. The South African Navy along with the South African Air Force launched a seven-hour mission in which 16 helicopters were used to airlift the passengers and crew to nearby settlements.  All 571 people on board were saved with a group of entertainment staff, under the leadership of Moss Hills, organizing the orderly evacuation of passengers by the helicopters.  The shipwreck is possibly the most recent instance where women and children were given priority when loading the lifeboats.  The entertainers were the last of the passengers lifted off the ship. The information is courtesy of Wikipedia