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.
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