« Tito Schipa | Main | Chance Child - Part One: 52 - Helen Says Farewell To John »

Diamonds And Dust: 64 - Swimming And Diving

...The wreck was off-limits; as was Chameis Bay. But who listened to what the company said? We visited the wreck the moment all the fuss died down getting the crew out of the diamond area. The DDs seemed more concerned about the possibility that the ship was trying to smuggle diamonds than about the safety of the crew. It was a ridiculous assumption. Who the hell in their right mind would use a 10,000 ton freighter to steal diamonds?...

Malcolm Bertoni tells of unofficial "salvaging'' on the Namibian coast.

To read earlier chapters of Malcolm's vivid account of diamond mining in Namibia please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/diamonds_and_dust/

To obtain a copy of his book click on http://www.equilibriumbooks.com/diamonds.htm

The water around the coast was freezing and not conducive to swimming. The temperature was about 10 or 11 C. Bloody cold. Just after I moved to Affenrucken, an Ovambo died from heart failure due to swimming in the freezing water. But the fishing was good and there was a fishing club that went up to different parts of the coast for fishing trips. There was also plenty of crayfish which was easy to catch. It meant wading out to about chest deep and then feeling under the rocks and ledges for the crays. This way it was possible to catch a dozen in 30 minutes. While we were doing that some guys would get a half 44 gallon drum and fill this with seawater and get a fire going to cook the crays. We would then have a feast of the crayfish and would do this every third or fourth weekend.

The wrecks

A biggish ship was wrecked at Chameis Bay in 1970. It ended up at the northern end of the bay, first pointing straight at the beach and then swinging with the bow pointing southwards. It was stranded high and dry on the beach and was easy to get to at low tide. The crew virtually walked off.

The wreck was off-limits; as was Chameis Bay. But who listened to what the company said? We visited the wreck the moment all the fuss died down getting the crew out of the diamond area. The DDs seemed more concerned about the possibility that the ship was trying to smuggle diamonds than about the safety of the crew. It was a ridiculous assumption. Who the hell in their right mind would use a 10,000 ton freighter to steal diamonds? It showed how paranoid security was. So we went to the wreck almost every weekend, weather permitting. We explored the ship and took off all bits of memorabilia. Some guys took off portholes, others lifebuoys and a few part of cabins. There were dozens of pilots Ė blue covered books that provided passage information. I took the ship's compass which was a bastard to get out. It was a big brass magnetic compass, probably about 9 or 10 inches in diameter. I kept it in my room and when I left, gave it to Ikey, who donated it to the Oranjemund Scout Group. I wonder if they still have it.

One weekend just for the hell of it and to do something different, we took a few tables, a dozen chairs, a table cloth, cutlery and plates from the wreck. Everything that was needed for a sit down meal. We even had serviettes. We had caught some crays and proceeded to cook them in the half drum and then sat down very formally at the table to eat our meal, pretending we were in some high-class restaurant. It must have looked rather bizarre.

Unfortunately the wreck didnít last long. Within a few months her back broke and she split in two. Within a year she had disappeared, destroyed by the immense swells and heavy seas that constantly pounded the shoreline. There was nothing left. We enjoyed fooling around on the wreck while we could.

There were many other wrecks on the coast in Area No 1. The seas off the coast were a major fishing area and there were often dozens of fishing boats fishing offshore, some quite close, some within 500 metres. This was especially during the crayfish season around November/December. Vessels were not allowed to get too close to the coast and Iím sure security had many a sleepless night worrying about the fishing boats. Often we would pick up rope, big plastic buoys and other bits and pieces from the fishing boats that had washed ashore. A few boats were wrecked while I was there and the crews were hustled out of the diamond area as quickly as possible.

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.