The only shipwreck to occur along the Cape Peninsula, that could be considered slightly humorous, is that of the Kakapo steamship in 1900. It was of course a dark and stormy night, and a strong north-westerly wind was whipping the waves into a fury and sending spray over the decks. Driving rain dashed into the sailors’ eyes making visibility poor. There was no lighthouse along the Noordhoek stretch of coast to help guide the way to Cape Point and dusk was approaching.
One mountain looks rather like another in these conditions, but mistaking Chapman’s Peak for Cape Point, was the biggest mistake of Captain Nicholayson’s life. Thinking he had rounded the point, the Captain turned his ship to port (left), and headed straight for Noordhoek Beach. It came as a terrible surprise when, with the help of a strong tail wind and furnaces at full steam ahead, he hit the beach and wedged the Kakapo high and dry onto the soft sand. As day dawned, all twenty crewmen were able to disembark without even getting their feet wet. Capt. Nicholayson was so embarrassed at having beached this brand new steamship on its maiden voyage from Britain to Australia that he refused to get off or answer any questions.
Noordhoek was a remote area at that time, with a couple of farms and a wide tract of marshland separating the beach from any homesteads. Some sailors wandered across the wetland – drawn by a light from a milking parlour – and raised the alarm. But still the Captain refused to leave and legend has it, that he lived aboard for as long as three years. This seems unlikely, but a photograph taken some months after the vessel was beached, does show smoke rising from the ship’s funnel. The Kakapo remains exactly where it was beached and the ship’s ribs and rusted boiler make a bizarre sight parked in the middle of the beach.
Look out for our post on the 5 most visible shipwrecks of the Cape Peninsula.