Epic wreck diving off the Cape Coast
On May 12 1901, the 3500 ton Hermes was wrecked en route from Argentina with a consignment of forage, livestock and government stores. She had to anchor in Table Bay as the harbour was full. A gale sprang up and soon after nightfall the ship beached broadside to the shore. Two lives were lost.
The Hermes as it is today.
On the night of July 28 1934, the 4388 ton Winton ran aground while transporting a cargo of Australian wheat to Britain. The tragedy occurred when her captain mistook telegraph masts for navigation lights on the harbour breakwater.
Jean Tresfon’s epic aerial image which inspired our exploratory mission.
We were the only boat to launch in gale force winds but hoped conditions underwater would be satisfactory for our mission! After a bumpy ride to Milnerton, we observed that the Hermes is situated close to shore and best dived in little swell. The Winton was the better option and as we descended, the hulk of its ruined stern came into view. I was excited to enter the broken shell and swam around inside it, trying to reconstruct the vessel in my mind. Next we came across the awesome sight of the propeller, encrusted with barnacles and kelp.
What struck me first about the main wreckage was the relatively good condition it is in. Surrounded by sand, one can circumnavigate it easily and safely, swimming closer to examine the more interesting sections. I spotted a hole and managed to squeeze my camera into it for a shot of the underside structure.
It was heartening to see hundreds of crayfish nestled in all the crevices and fish drifting through the hollows making this watery monument come alive once more. I hope that now that we have mapped the area and made others aware of this awesome dive site that others will follow in our footsteps and fill the void with wonder, excitement and bubbles!
Special thanks to Jean Tresfon for the use of his aerial image of the wreck sites as well as Blue Flash Dive Charters for the exploratory dives in the area and the epic wreck diving off the Cape Coast.