John H. Marsh
Antiquarian, Rare & Collectable
Hodder and Stoughton
From Amazon reader;
Dr S S Nagi (NYROBE)
5.0 out of 5 stars SKELETON COAST
12 November 2013
This book was first published in 1944(2008), has 144 pages, 25 chapters, 12 B/W photos and 2 large maps. The book is dedicated to 'Leona' and the foreword is by Field Marshall JC Smuts. JOHN HENRY MARSH was born in 1914 and he started his writing career at the age of 14 in Cape Town. By 1933, he became a full time shipping editor. He travelled on the Castle Line doing press and radio reporting between England and South Africa. He and his wife made colour movies of Airlines for publicity purposes. After 20 years of waterfront reporting, he resigned and in 1953, he and his wife established a Travel and Trade Promotion Organisation. Their son David helped too. John Marsh died on 18.2.1996 at Johannesburg.
In the large dry and sandy area of KAOKOVELD, in South West Africa - NAMIBIA (Coast of Loneliness - Skeleton Coast), an area as large as England and Scotland, there are no rivers or life and very few Africans and animals. Many have died of hunger, thirst and exposure at the coastline of this isolated area. Some ship wrecks are there in the dunes as if sailing through the desert. The powerful Benguella current sweeps and grips unwary ships and gets them towards the shoreline.
On the night of 29.11.1942, Sunday, the 13,000 ton British Blue Liner -DUNEDIN STAR, radioed in that she had struck an unknown object and was racing to the 'coast of death'. It was 10.30 pm and there were more than 100 people on board, men, women and children. It had left Liverpool 3 weeks ago and was heading for Middle East, with allied cargo. Captain RB Lee said that the 5 look outs on the bridge had not seen any obstruction. The engine room reported leaks and water was rushing in. In the dark, the ship was at the sandy beach and the passengers came up to the deck wearing their life jackets. At day light, the passengers saw dunes to the East and calm sea to the West and not a soul around as far as the eyes could see.
WALVIS BAY responded by sending a tug and ex-trawler, and advised British Freighter and a Norwegian motor-ship in the area to go immediately to the wreck. This would take 48 hours. 63 men, women and children were transferred to the beach and 43 men were left on the wreck. A camp was made on the beach, but the sand was a nuisance, blowing into the eyes, ears and noses. A little further, they found remains of a shipwreck and skeletons. It was freezing at night and burning hot in the daytime. The motor-boat of the Norwegian ship transferred 33 passengers from the wreck to the British Freighter. The Walvis bay tug rescued the rest of the crew. The rescue of the passengers at the beach was made worse due to the high surf.
The tug transferred the captain and 2 engineers from the wreck to the mine-sweeper. Then the tug and the Norwegian ship left. 3 rafts with food, water and supplies disappeared north, instead of going to the beach and the castaways. Unable to attempt sea rescue, the British Freighter headed on its way with the 43 crew. On the 4th day, Dec 3rd, the tug also wrecked, 60 miles south of the wrecked liner, near 'ROCKY POINT'. Some of the crew had landed, others were still on the wrecked tug.
The 1st aircraft dropped supplies and water for the castaways. This aircraft landed and got stuck in the sand. The mine-sweeper 'NERINE', dropped some food and water on the rafts and then departed. All the radios of the wrecks and the plane, had now failed. A 2nd mine-sweeper 'NATALIA', full of supplies was sent to the wrecks on Dec 4th. Overland, motor convoy was also on its way. A 2nd bomber Ventura plane with supplies was also sent to the wrecks. Most of the water supplies and the food was lost, when thrown from the plane . The 'Natalia' and the 2nd plane dropped more supplies for the beached. 'Natalia' developed engine trouble and had to return to Walvis Bay. With great bravery, the beached tug men rescued their friends from the tug, with a life boat on Dec 7th. More water was dropped at the 2 beaches. By now, 1 man was dead and 1 had disappeared. later, the planes found the missing convoy, only a few miles from the sea front. But on Dec 5th, a 2nd truck convoy was sent. Then on Dec 7th, a 3rd convoy was also dispatched, which battered, returned to WINDHOEK. The 1st convoy got to the tug men and took them to Rocky Point and the 2 planes then flew them to Walvis Bay. Then the fog came in.
On Wednesday Dec 9th, 'NERINE' was back near the wrecked liner. A line was thrown to the beach and with help of 2 life boats, 19 people were taken aboard the 'Nerine' mine-sweeper. 7 more were taken to 'Nerine', who took these 26 people to Walvis Bay. 41 people still remained on the beach. Eventually, the 1st convoy reached the castaways. Now all the 63 people and the convoy, made the outward journey and met the 2nd convoy of 4 trucks. At 'Rocky Point', the 2nd Ventura Plane took the women and children to Walvis Bay, and came back for 11 more people. 18 crew volunteered to stay with the convoys, to bring them home safely, after these 19 days. After 1,500 mile round trip, the 11 trucks arrived in Windhoek, to a great reception and 5 days later, they arrived in Cape Town. Men were sent back to salvage the 1st plane, which crashed into the sea, after it took off. 3 airmen were lucky to survive, managed to go to the beach and fortunately, met the convoy, which took them to Windhoek.
Today, the wrecks of these 2 ships are still there, joining other wrecks on this isolated, deserted and dangerous Skeleton Coast. Now-a-days, Namibia Safaris offer 3--4 days safari at the 'SKELETON COAST CAMP', Hoanib River, in this Skeleton Coast National Park.
Having born in Kenya, I enjoyed reading this book.