Durban Dive Sites – Wrecks

WRECKS

THE ODD

The vessel is relatively in tact with the boilers, mast, bow and stern all visible from the surface. The wreck lies parallel to the beach in Vetches’ harbour. The sea ward side is well preserved but is submerged in sand. The leeward side is broken up and is home to many juvenile butterfly and angle fish. There are resident lion fish and scorpion fish that predate on the shoals of juvenile fish on this wreck. Depth: 7m Additional Information: This wreck lies at the entrance to Vetches harbour and very close to the new North Pier of the harbour mouth. Most of the skippers that launch their boats from the mini harbour are unaware of the existence of this wreck and therefore special care needs to be taken when diving on this wreck, so as not to be run over by a boat. Always dive with a buoy and do not surface if you hear a ski boat approaching.

THE OVINGTON COURT

This ship was wrecked on the 25th of November 1940. The ship was awaiting a berth in the harbour when a sever storm caused the anchors to drag and the ship ran ashore. The wreck can be reached by boat or by shore when the boilers make themselves visible on the low tide. Additional Information: The wreck was blown up as it was deemed unsightly to by the beach goers of Durban back in 1940. All that remains of the wreck are the boilers. This wreck sits at the backline and is un-dive able when a big swell is running.

THE COOPERS LIGHT WRECK

Depth: 25 to 30m
Coopers, sitting off the bluff at 29 meters, is Durban’s most interesting wreck in the recreational divers range. There has been much speculation over the years as to her true name and the reason she languishes on the seabed. At a length of 77 meters she is not a small vessel and it is strange there are no records of her sinking. Her origins are British and it is likely that she was scuttled after one of the world wars as ships that were commandeered by the navy were often not returned to their pre-war owners. Shell holes in one of her boilers indicate that she didn’t go down quietly. Today she plays matron to a myriad of fish species and although not a easy dive due to the prevailing currents she offers a exiting dive to both fish lovers and historical buffs. This wreck is a photographers dream – the prop, the rudder and the bow present endless wide angle opportunities. In way of fish life – the Harlequin Goldie – a species of goldie that is endemic to KZN steels the show here. Juvenile angel and butterfly fish, scorpion fish, paper fish, lion fish, eels and coral banded shrimps are all here in abundance.

What's the story:

The wreck is situated off the Coopers Light House on the Bluff of Durban – hence the name Coopers Light Wreck. The origin, name and how the vessel became a wreck remains a mystery.

The vessel is 76m long and is 10.5m wide. She sits upright on the sand, perpendicular to the shore in 30 m of water. The vessel is constructed from iron and used steam power (the ship has boilers) to turn a single propeller.

There have been many researchers that have identified vessels of similar dimensions to Coopers in the various archives pertaining to maritime history of Durban.

Unfortunately any hope of revelling the identity of Coopers have been dashed on more than one occasion by the fact that all the vessels identified all had twin propeller’s as opposed to the single propeller of Coopers.

There is no information or indication from the dives undertaken that suggest that this vessel was wrecked. It is most likely then that this vessel was scuttled after being decommissioned from the whaling fleet, or by its owners after World War Two.

Additional info:

The size of this wreck makes it possible to view the entire wreck in one dive. However air and decompression are your limitations, and should be closely monitored on this dive. The wreck is dived by way of a shot line. The skipper will hook onto the wreck by way of anchor that is attached by line to a buoy (shot line). Divers will descend on the line onto the wreck. At this point you have two options in way of a dive plan. One option is to return back to the shot line at 125bar. Care must be taken to assess the current and visibility, as you don’t want to run out of air before making it back to the shot line. The other option is for the DM to send up a deploy buoy for the members of the group to ascend on.

The benefit of using an deploy bouy is that you can ascend from anywhere on the wreck when you reach 50bar. Running out of air, and going into decompression are the major risks to consider on this dive.

What we know:

At the stern of the wreck, there is a structure resembling a “harpoon gun”. This structure led many of the Durban diving community to believe this was a whaling vessel. However, if the vessel was a whaler, the harpoon gun assembly would be on the bow and not at the stern.
Dead whales were towed to Durban by the whaling vessels after being harpooned offshore. The whales were secured to the whaling vessel by rope over the bollards situated on the gunwale of the whaling vessels. Bollards have been located at the bow and stern which could support the fact that “Coopers” was part of the whaling fleet.

The stern has many holes where all the vessels portholes have been removed. Interestingly, the single propeller has a chip taken out one of the blades which was done to determine if it was brass and therefore worth salvaging….

The wreck was first dived in 1974 by Darroll Smith. The wreck was found by ski boat fisherman who believed it to be a reef at first. The ski boat fisherman took Navy / Police and DUC divers to the reef in order to retrieve the many anchors that had been lost here. This collaboration between ski boat fishermen and scuba divers paved the way for diving off boats in Kwa Zulu Natal.
The Ski Boat Clubs operated controlled launch sites along the Kwa Zulu Natal Coast. Divers both scuba and spearo’s were not deemed fit to launch boats in these area’s and as such were not given permission to operate boats, and therefore access the deep sea reefs.
The collaboration between divers and ski boat fisherman to diver Coopers paved the way for boat diving in KZN.

The Harlequin Goldie: On 29 July 1979, Dr Allen Connel dived the Coopers Light Wreck for the first time and discovered the Harlequin Goldie (Anthias connelli.)
This fish is endemic to KZN and favours steel structures of wrecks.

We may not know her true identity, but, who has in her own way, the ship has played an integral part in scuba diving in Kwa Zulu Natal

FONTAO

Depth: 15m to 27m
One of three artificial reefs sunk by the Oceanic Research Institute (ORI) on the 8th of August 1991. The Fontao is a disused prawn trawler that is 34.5m long, 8m wide and 13.5m high.

Additional Information:
The wreck is situated off Umhlanga rocks and sits upright on a sandy bottom. The ship is mostly intact, except for the wheelhouse, which has broken off and now lies on the sand. It is possible to penetrate this wreck however these penetrations are characteristically very restricted. The wreck swarms with bait fish which can restrict visibility on the wreck. The aspect of penetration, as well as the restricted visibility due to the vast amount of bait fish, should be considered when diving this wreck. This wreck is dived with a shot line. Diving this wreck as a group can be difficult – the penetration aspect and bait fish characteristics of this wreck, make it important to stick to the buddy pair system. Make sure between you and your buddy, that there is deploy buoy in order to ensure that you ascend on a buoy line in the even of you not being able to ascend with the group. DM should note the number of divers on board and divers should note the name of the boat they are on as this wreck can get busy.

T BARGE

Depth: 25m
One of three artificial Reefs sunk by the Oceanic Research Institute (ORI) on 19th December 1990. The barge is 30m x 20m x 3m comprising of 48 compartments of 3m x 3m x 3m. The barge itself is made of concrete and there is a gantry like superstructure of steel located at the T junction. Situated off Virgina this wreck is home to bait fish, bat fish, lion fish and pine apple fish.

Additional Information:
This is a popular fishing spot. Whereas the alpha flag displayed by the dive boat dictates that all fishing activities cease whilst the dive is being conducted, it is best to carry a knife in order to assist yourself or buddy in the event of entanglement. Carry a deploy buoy with you and make sure you dive with your buddi – this is not a drift dive and so it becomes difficult to follow a DM on this dive. It is quite safe to explore this wreck in buddi pairs but just ensure that you have a buoy line to ascend on – whether it be your own deploy buoy or that of the DM. This is a popular fishing spot. Whereas the alpha flag displayed by the dive boat dictates that all fishing activities cease whilst the dive is being conducted, it is best to carry a knife in order to assist yourself or buddy in the event of entanglement. Batfish, pineapple fish ,turtles puffer fish and lion fish are some of the interesting fish that are found on this wreck. Of late there have been sightings of brindle bass on this wreck.

THE KATE

Depth: 63m
The Kate was only recently discovered by the diving fraternity as her depth at 63 meters kept her beyond most divers’ limits. Starting life as a dredger along our natal coastline she was converted into a freighter in the employ of CG Smith and used on the Durban/Mauritius run for several years. Her end came in the 1920′s when she was towed to her current location and unceremoniously scuttled. Today, although still intact she has lost all her woodwork and has reverted back to her dredging days looks.

Additional Information:
Technical dive for re breather and Trimix divers only.

THE KAIDIE

Depth: 63m
The wreck called the Kaidie lies very close to the Kate in the same depth of water. Whether this is her real name is under doubt. There are recorded reports of a wreck by this name being depth-charged by the navy in the early 40s as it was interfering with the Royal Navy’s submarine asdic. This vessel has definitely been subjected to depth-charging as she is in several pieces and the evidence of explosions is obvious. She has only been visited twice by divers and it is hoped that in the future a more detailed history will emerge.

Additional Information:
Technical dive for re breather and Trimix divers only

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