You've heard of unwashed, malnourished hikers doing the Fish river canyon. You've encountered backpackers with tons of gear, pots, pans, and a folding stove -- eating some gritty dried paste and raving about it.
This is not for you? But you love hiking. In fact, nothing suits you more than a day in the wilderness, except perhaps, a day in the wilderness followed by a slap up meal in a local restaurant. You'd enjoy weeklong expeditions, if only you could jump in a car at the end of the day and head off to a comfortable bed.
Congratulations, you are a confirmed Slackpacker.
"Slackpacking" was originally coined to describe a day's worth of thru-hiking unencumbered by a pack, after which the hiker would hop in a car and drive home -- then drive back some time in the future pick up wherever one left off. The idea was to string together enough of these daytrips to eventually "complete" a much longer trail, without the burden of backpacking. A number of people, for example, "slackpack" the 2,000 mile Appalachian Trail, adding sections like puzzle pieces to their personal trailmap.
Today the definition has expanded, and "slackpacker" has come to represent anyone that fits in between the casual day hiker and the backpacker. On occasion, the slackpacker will indulge in those practices as well, but doesn't make a habit of lengthy backpack trips. As for the typical National Park Service nature loop, the slackpacker prefers to opt for a longer, more difficult trail to avoid the masses.
Enjoy the trail
Below, my short videos
Perlemoen trail maps
Beachcombers guide to the Cape Whale Coast Trails 2.5hrs from Cape Town
Five of the best trails combined making The Perlemoen trail
Day 1 Shipwreck shore section Location: Quion point reserve - Die Dam - Buffejagsbaai Rating: Easy, slight gradient over dune, medium fitness, 15km/18km
The trail starts at the sleepy holiday resort of Die Dam following a jeep track into Quoin Point Reserve, the second most Southerly point on the African continent. The trail cuts through pristine fynbos covered dunes leading to the coast. At the coast we take some time to observe a local Cape Fur Seal breeding colony, before hugging the shore towards the historical light station at Quoin Point. Next is a 4km long open beach section backed by a spectacular wind carved sandstone cliff, a great place to cool off and swim in summer. The shipwrecks of the Fynd & Swona (1947) can be seen at low tide here. The trail ends at the beautiful fishing boat launch site of Bufflesjagsbaai. We can also see the Overberg's largest Abalone farm next to the village which brings much needed employment to this quiet part of the world. This small fishing village has some colourful characters and it is well worth stopping to have a chat. We can stop here or carry on a further 3km to the Ghost town buried in sand; this is a good option if only doing a 3 day trail.
Day 2 Bantamsklip section Location: Bufflesjagsbaai - Pearly Beach. Rating: Easy, medium fitness, 15km
We start where we left off at Bufflesjagsbaai heading towards Pearly Beach reserve. before Plaatjieskraalbaai a very popular Kabeljou fishing spot, we walk through this areas version of Kolmanscop ghost town, an abandoned holiday resort buried in sand, due to the drifting dunes A great photographic opportunity. We follow the seashore around its many granite boulder protected bays, past Bantamsklip the controversial proposed site for a nuclear power station, to the shipwreck site of Otori Maru (1984). Much of the wreck remains and at low tide it is easy to explore. The last section is Sweetfontain, and the long flat sandy beach provides great viewing of the whales and dolphins when they are here. We finish in Pearly Beach, at the Fynbos centre, a local conservation initiative where you can see an amazing diversity of local fynbos flowers in the garden and display area.
Day 3 Abalone amble section Location: Pearly Beach – Franskraal, 15km/18km Rating: Easy We set out at the Marine and Coastal information kiosk in Pearly Beach and the opportunity to gain extra insight into this amazing coastal ecosystem you are hiking through. We then hug the rocky shore on the coastal footpath, great for whale watching in season. Pearly Beach is aptly named for its beautiful beaches which border the Uilkraal reserve. We walk over long stretches of pebble shore backed by sandy dunes. Close to shipwreck of Un Hung (1989), an impressive 4 meter tall shell midden hides behind the dunes. The flat open section towards the Uilkraal river offers a view of Great White Shark cage diving operation boats a few hundred meters off shore.Then we cross a river, between knee and waist deep, safely guided at the best spot along the river. We finish the day at the Franskraal museum a private collection of artefacts well displayed and supported with an informative talk from owner, Jan. The option to walk a further 3km along the picturesque coastal path to Kleinbaai harbour where the Great White shark diving Boats launch. This quiet harbour attracts visitors from every corner of the globe.
Walk with whales section (last day of the Perlemoen trail) Location : Gansbaai harbour - Walker bay Rating: medium/ easy, moderate fitness, 8km
We start at Gansbaai harbour, a traditional fishing harbour and walk the coastal trail towards De Kelders. Tthe trail turns into an impressive and safe cliff path with spectacular views over Walker Bay. Arguably the best land based whale watching spot in the world! The rock formations create deep plunge pools perfect to cool off on hot days. Limestone caves dot the steep cliffs, and entering the caves is an experience for their natural beauty and historical significance. The Dripkelder is the only fresh water coastal cave in Southern Africa and it is possible to take a dip in its healing waters. For hikers not wanting to enter the caves the short wait outside offers a view that will not disappoint. The trail ends at Klipgat cave where excavations found evidence of stone-age mans occupation dating back 80 to 100 thousand years.
Tip of Africa trail. (maximum 5 hikers) Location: Cape Agulhas - Brandfontein Rating Medium/ easy, 10km – 17km
For visiting hikers what better feather in your cap than having hiked from the Tip of the African continent. Meet early at Pearly Beach You are then transported to Cape Agulhas where we visit the historical Cape Agulhas light-house museum and southern-most tip of the African continent. We set off on the trail from Suiderstrand where the road ends or from the Southernmost tip of Africa (7km extra). At low tide we see old Khoisan fish traps at Rasperpunt on the rocky shore section of the hike and the shipwreck of the Meisho Maru (1982). The beach section has outcrops of limestone rock pools to explore marine life or plunge into on hot days and there is a sweet water spring on the beach to drink from. A Shell midden in the dunes offers a rare glimpse of our stone-age past. The last section of the trail is a deserted long flat open beach backed by tall white sand dunes ending at Brandfontain, where we meet our pick up and are transported back to Pearly beach.
Unusual creatures South African Coast
Spiny starfish A voracious predator, particularly of mussels Starfish have hydraulic tube feet used for locomotion and gripping prey, the feet, especially those at the tips of the rays, are also sensitive to chemicals, enabling the starfish to detect odour sources such as food.
There are eyespots at the ends of the arms which respond to changes in light. Starfish lack a centralized brain, but has a complex nervous system, the starfish does not have the capacity to plan its actions. If one arm detects an attractive odour, it becomes dominant and temporarily over-rides the other arms to initiate movement towards the prey. Starfish can also regenerate lost limbs and some species can regrow its entire body from a single limb.
Sea swallow is a nudibranch floating upsidedown on the surface water tention activly hunting bluebottles, employing the stinging cells of its prey for its own defence
The Blue button same grouping as Bluebottles except its sting is mild and has no effect on humans. Note the tiny Sea swallow on the right.
The Buoy barnacle secretes its own flotation ball from modified cement glands, other barnacles attach to the float so that colonies form.
Bubble-raft shell or violet snail is offten washed ashore with bluebottles on which it feeds, it floats upside down suspended by a raft of mucus-coated bubbles.
The Columbus crab also floats in the palagic zone, first noted by Columbus on his voyage to the West Indies.
Sea Spiders have four pairs of legs but are not true spiders note the claw like ends of the legs for holding on in ocean currents.
Hydroids are colonies of numerous individuals a little like coral polyps, often as these are structured furn like or feathery. The Basket star comes from the Brittlestar group, this one washed ashore in a Kelp holdfast can grow 60 cm across.
Giant Chiton or armadillo eight plated animal usually found half buried in sand or in crevices, grazes on mico algae at night returning to its hidding place by topographical navigation.
Crabeater seal a rare fine indeed only 20 recorded here in SA this one lost a long way from its Antarctic home
Even though denticles are similar to scales, they are really modified teeth and are covered with a hard enamel.
Like our teeth, they have an inner core of pulp made up of connective tissues, blood vessels, and nerves, which is covered by a layer of dentine a hard calcareous material. This is finally covered by enamel-like vitrodentine, which provides a hard outer casing.
Dermal denticles protects Sharks and Rays skin from damage and parasites in addition to improving their fluid dynamics.
The Cape sea urchin's mouth is centred on the lower side of the body and is surrounded by a whorl of gills. A complex jaw and tooth apparatus in the mouth, known as Aristotle's lantern, is used to fragment marine algae covering the rocks below the low tide zone or in rock pools.
Pelagic species washed ashore Cape Whale Coast
Many Pelagic species (OpenOcean) are washed ashore. Often found in the intertidal zones on almost every walk. Colouration of these animals is the first clue to there normal habitat, either blue, silver, clear or counter shaded this is because there is nowhere to hide in the surface waters of the ocean. (Magnification of page is useful for small details in photos)
Often found washed ashore (this one upside down) are Root-mouthed jellyfish Eupilema inexpectata although able to swim by pulsing water from there bells, onshore winds and currents overwhelm them. All jellyfish are carnivores stunning prey with stinging cells on there tentacles, the Root-mouth lacks tentacles and feeds by filtering tiny prey through tiny pores in the manubrium. Jelly fish are an important food for some turtles and are even eaten by Great white sharks. The small brown flecks seen in the photo are parasitic Amphipod’s. Amphipods are small (a few mm long) but diverse and abundant in most marine habitats occupying seaweeds, burrowing in sediment many building tubes. This Amphipod Hyperia galba is parasitic seen living inside the root-mouth jellyfish above. They are always associated with one or other of the species of jellyfish, living under the shelter of the umbrella often within the gonad cavities, where they are sought by some species of fish.Sometimes, you will see coastal birds picking at beached jellyfish, in search of an easy protein rich meal.
By-the-wind sailor Velella velella comprises of an oval float carrying a kinked vertical sail the mouth is located underneath surrounded by a number of simple tentacles with stinging cells (harmless to humans) used to stun and capture planktonic animals. This hydrozoa floats on surface water tension driven by the prevailing winds.
Bluebottle or Portuguese man-of-war Physalia physalis Its venomous tentacles can deliver a powerful sting used to paralyze small fish and other prey. The name "man o' war" is taken from the man-of-war, a 16th century English armed sailing ship that was based on an earlier Portuguese vessel. The bluebottle is not actually a single creature, but a colonial organism made up of many minute individuals called zooids. Each of these zooids is highly specialized; they are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are incapable of independent survival.
Many species prey on the bluebottle and are either to thick skinned to be effected by the sting like loggerhead turtles or amazingly immune like the sea swallow which consumes the whole organism selecting the most venomous nematocysts for its own use.
The Bubble-raft shell Janthina janthina thin fragile mollusc has no operculum (trap door) in the adult stage, secretes a mucus-coated bubbles from the foot from which it floats upside-down. They often found in large numbers drifting on the surface of the ocean, where they feed upon pelagic hydrozoans, especially the by-the-wind sailor and the Portuguese man o' war.
The Sea swallow Glaucus atlanticus small-sized (up to 3 cm) blue sea slug, a pelagic aeolid nudibranch, a marine gastropod mollusc. silvery grey on its dorsal side and dark and pale blue ventrally thiscoloration is an example of counter shading, which helps protect it from predators from below, sides and above. This ferocious predator huntslarger pelagic organisms including Bluebottle’s, Bye the wind sailor and the Bubble-raft shell. Because Glaucus stores the venom of its prey it can produce a more powerful and deadly sting than the prey upon which it feeds.With the aid of a gas-filled sac in its stomach, . Due to the location of the gas sac the sea swallow lives an upside down life floating on its back. Like most sea slugs, it’s a hermaphrodite, containing both male and female reproductive organs.
The Blue button Porpita porpita also floats feeding on platonic animals the gas filled float is surrounded by skirt of short tentacles dotted with minute spheres carrying stinging cells which are mild and have no effect on humans.
Interestingly in this photo top right you can just make out what seems to be a juvenile sea swallow (only noticed after sample returned).
Columbus crab Planes minutus unmistakable shape of this arthropod was first noted by Columbus on his voyage to the West Indies, the crab is a pelagic species inhabiting either floating weed or more dynamic habitat of Loggerhead turtles. They feed on organisms floating in the weed or scraps left over from the turtle, however crabs using turtles as a host have a wider variety of diet due to the crab actively hunting off and on its host returning to the turtles before they move away.
Barnacles are highly modified crustaceans the adults are permanently attached and encased in series of shell plates; the legs have become long and hairy to comb the water for food. The eggs are brooded and expelled as tiny shrimplike planktonic larvae. Two different types of barnacle occur these stalked barnacles living on floating objects and sessile acorn barnacles which have a conical shell attached to rocks or similar surfaces by a flat base.
Yellow-rimmed goose barnacle Lepas anatifera is exclusively attached to floating objects by a tough fleshy stalk often found in dense colonies on ships hulls and buoys and large driftwood washed ashore where it desiccates and perishes. The common name originates form the medieval myth that these barnacles grew into barnacle geese. Buoy barnacle Dosima fascicularis is the only barnacle to produce its own gas-filled float by secreting a characteristic polystyrene-like floatation ball from modified cement glands in the base of the stalk. Other buoy barnacles attach to the float so colonies form. Juveniles sometimes found on other floating objects. like the other stalked barnacles it is carried along by ocean currents and has no propulsion in its adult stage.
Sardine or Pilchard Sarinella gibbosa occasionally driven ashore by predator’s. Important biomass species for larger fish, birds and marine mammals, notice mouth parts used for filter feeding on plankton.
The presence of frogs is an indicator of a pristine environment due to their partial respiration through the skin which causes an accumulation of any toxins present thus killing the frog. CapePlatanna (Xenopus gilli)
Fifteen amphibian species are found in the area, with the highly endangered Capeplatanna and Micro frog having been recorded from seasonal vleis in the Hagelkraal and RatelRiver catchments (Ref De Villiers 1988; Picker & De Villiers 1988).
Most of these frogs breed in water such as fynbos seeps, marshes, mountain streams, rivers, coastal lakes and pans. Only three species do not depend on wetland or other aquatic habitats the sand rain frog occurring in flat sandy areas the cape mountain rain frog and the Strawberry rain frog both depending on montane habitats. Rain frogs have squat rounded bodies, flat faces and short stumpy limbs and spend most of there lives underground. Breeding after rain when the ground is moist.
Included in the variety are some of the smallest, largest and most attractive species in southern Africa.
(Ref Atherton de Villiers herpetologist Cape nature Stellenbosch)
The Arum lily frog sometimes hides in the Arum lily flower in the daytime often using cryptic colouration to blend in with its environment while at night creeps down the stem to hunt insects. www.arkive.org ›Amphibians
Reptiles are ectothermic meaning they obtain their body heat externally usually from the direct sun or radiated from the surrounding environment. Species diversity in the fynbos biome is low, approximately half that of the moist and arid savannah biomes of South Africa (Siegfried 1989). Twenty-four reptile species have been recorded, and a further 22 species (including one categorized as rare) are likely to occur on the Agulhas Plain (Raimondo & Barker 1988). rare as it is to see a reptile it dose occur from time to time, the species of most interest from order Squamata (snakes) are Cobras and puff adders they are more frequently seen at the changing of the seasons when they are moving from their over winter hibernation habitat and back again in spring. From the order Chelonia (shield reptiles) most commonly the Angular tortoise. They seem to sense a change in air pressure and are seen in higher numbers before the onset of a cold front, probably moving away from low ground.
Seldom seen are Yellow-bellied sea snakes and turtles swept south by the Agulhas current. This juvenile loggerhead turtle was observed at Quoin point. There is a rehabilitation program run by the Two Ocean Aquarium
Cape Town. For Turtles washed ashore in the cape call 0214184652
Southern Rock agama is sociable often found in small groups or colony’s during the breeding season the males heads become bright blue. We see many of these on the Walk with whales section.
Western Cape endemic and other birds
The avifauna is diverse, with 230 bird species recorded from the Agulhas Plain.Of these, 11 are Red Data Book species and 133 are associated with the terrestrial environment. Significant populations of Blue cranes and to a lesser extent the vulnerable Denham’s (Stanley's) bustard Neotis denhami breed on the inland plains Nectivores (sunbirds and sugarbirds), important for lowland protea-veld pollination, are abundant.
The wetlands of the area support a diverse assemblage (> 60 species) of water birds Over <st2:bcv_smarttag>21 000 water birds (i.e. about 9 % of those in the Western Cape) occur at these wetlands, with the highest numbers at Soetendalsvlei, followed by Uilkraals River estuary and Voëlvlei The birds of the AP have been afforded international conservation recognition by the listing of two Important Bird Areas (IBAs), i.e. Overberg wheat belt and Heuningnes river and estuary system
The CapeSugarbird, Promerops cafer, is one of the five bird species endemic to the Fynbos biome orange-breasted sunbird Anthobaphes violacea CaperockjumperChaetops frenatus Victorin’s warbler Cryptillas victorini Protea seedeater Crithagra leucopterus The staple diet of the Cape sugarbird is nectar; however, it will also eat spiders and insects. The characteristic strong winds in the Cape may make feeding off protea heads difficult, but the CapeSugarbird has adapted to this with the development of sharp claws, the Proteas adaption is its stem is strong enough to carry this pollinators weight, as lightweight pollinators like butterfly’s struggle to fly in strong winds.
The breeding season for the Sugarbird and sunbirds is winter when there are ample food supplies. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.
Chances of seeing both these beautiful birds a few km inland where the best opportunities come from staking out the plant associated with the birds feeding, breeding and nesting and wait, usually not long before one turns up.
Extensive agricultural transformation 40 % of the AP is cultivated and associated habitat destruction has negatively affected many bird species, e.g. sunbirds, nightjars, and moosebirds However, populations of certain bird species, especially granivores and omnivores, such as sparrows, larks and pipits, as well as Egyptian geese and Helmeted guinea fowl have proliferated on the AP. Studies(Mangnall & Crowe 2003) on the effects of agricultural development on bird diversity on the AP and recorded the highest avian diversity at sites with a mixture of crops and coastal fynbos. However, all other agricultural regimes reflected a loss of diversity when compared with fynbos, and a small number of species, e.g. sunbirds, were exclusively reliant on coastal fynbos for survival.
The African black oystercatcherHaematopus moquini endemic to southern Africa inhabits rocky and sandy shores, and sometimes estuaries and coastal lagoons. It prefers to breed on offshore islands and sandy beaches The coastal breeding site of the African black oystercatcher makes it vulnerable to human disturbance, particularly as the breeding season coincides with the height of the summer tourist season. This bird is gladly a regular sighting on any part of the hike often heard before seen.
Tread carefully the Oystercatcher lays highly camouflaged eggs in nothing more than a scrape in the sand above the high-water mark. The only time I’ve found nests is by accident and best avoided in breeding season September to March where birds are showing signs of distress when these areas are approached. Dyer Island and Geyser Rock are important breeding sites for seabirds; notably the African penguin, which is classified as vulnerable and whose populations continue to decline The seabird species present and the size of their populations relative to their global populations are as follows: African penguins (15%), Cape cormorant (13%), Crowned cormorant (9%), Bank cormorants (<2%), Kelp gulls (<2%) and at irregular intervals White-breasted cormorant (<4%), Swift terns (<2%) and rare Caspian terns (<2%) African black oystercatchers (7%) and the rare Damara tern (<1%) breed along the coast. CapeCormorantPhalacrocorax capensis, is a bird endemic to the south-western coast of Africa. It’s the most abundant of the four spices of cormorant found in the area and likely to be seen on the hike often at rest on the rocky outcrops or in amazing v formations kilometres long flying offshore. The largest, is the white-breasted cormorant although often feeds in bodies of fresh water is also a common site.
African Penguin Spheniscus demersus unfortunately this bird is unlikely to be seen although it has happened on one walk. Its state of high vulnerability is due to a number of factors. Including depletion of food source, nesting material, and oil spills. Although egg collecting stopped in 1960s the massive impact of that and guano scrapping (used to burrow into for nests) reduced populations by 90% 1200 breeding pairs were counted on Dyer island in 2009 this number has declined since then.The wild African Pengauin has a high risk of extinction in the medium-term future, classified by theWorld Conservation Union. CapeGannetsMorus capensis breeds onlyin southern Africa and so considered endemic.
Depending on altitude, gannets hit the water at speeds of between 40 and 120 kilometres per hour, impact of hitting the water is absorbed by air cushions at the base of their necks. They have no external nostrils where the water could rush in. this spectacle is often seen when great shoals of fish are near the surface. Often pushed there by Unseen predators, like Dolphins.(see mammals)
Whitefronted Plover Charadrius marginatus is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and is the most common coastally-breeding wader species in southern Africa. Here it occurs in densities of up to seven or eight birds per kilometre, feeding on fly larvae and amphipods that inhabit stranded kelp fronds but known to take 28 different prey species.An interesting foraging technique which is known as ‘foot trembling’ which Brings prey items to the surface of the wet sand.Whitefronted Plovers remain faithful to their territories for years,these delightful birds are see on every stage of the walk. Three species of gulls can be seen soaring above the waves or scavenging noisily on the coast of South Africa. These are the Kelp Gull, Hartlaub’s Gull and the Greyheaded Gull. The Greyheaded is seldom seen on the coast but thrives on wetlands inland. Gulls have well adapted to human habitation following fishing boats, populations can now be found far from the sea feeding on rubbish dumps and terrestrial invertebrates.
Several species of Terns are seen on the walk they have slender pointed bills used for skewering prey,more delicate than gulls. They are mostly seen at rest on the rocky shore but sometimes the spectacle of them plunge diving using that beak to capture fish is observed this the Swift tern Sterna bergii Is a year round resident.
The Common Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus is one of the many migratory birds to visit in summer (occasionally overwinters here) and it’s always nice to see the first ones arriving in spring returning from Siberia and Russia where they breed. The Whimbrel specilised beak indicates food preference, diet consists of crabs mudprawns and Polychaetes (bristleworms about 800 spices in Southern Africa).
Many of the mammals of the Agulhas plane are seldom seen due to there nocturnal lifestyle but signs of them having passed through an area is always evident if one knows what to look for. Tracks are a common sight especially after rains in the damp sand or holes dug by animals foraging. Evidence from camera traps set by the many private reserves have revealed surprising results. This CapeLeopardPanthera pardus photographed in flower valley, a species thought to have been wiped out from the area years ago. Its unknown how many leopards are in the Overberg area but encouraging reports of spoor finds are becoming more frequent. Caracal sightings and spoor are common and I see these beautiful cats at least a dozen times each year. Although both these animals are still trapped and killed the majority of farmers have understood the benefits of having these top predators in the ecosystem. The Chacma baboon Papio ursinus, also known as the Cape baboon, is one of the reasons the local farmers tolerate the capeLeopard, seldom seen on the coast preferring the mountains with ample fresh water and trees, often heard before seen barking usually at us from the protection of the mountains. Large social groups often chance encounters usually crossing roads. They are omnivorous creatures with a preference for fruits, while also eating insects, seeds, grass and smaller vertebrate animals. The Chacma baboon is generally a scavenger when it comes to game meat and rarely engages in hunting large animals. Of the 81 terrestrial mammals known from the Cape Floral Kingdom, 65 species have been recorded or are likely to occur on the Agulhas Plain The majority of these are rodents (21 species) and small carnivores (14 species) and includes four mammal species classified as vulnerable
Cape clawless Otter Aonyx capensis tracks can often be seen where freshwater is close to the sea shore. They are opportunistic predators, hunting a wide range of food in the crepuscular (dawn, dusk) hours they are seldom seen, but their spoor and latrine areas indicate their presence. Much of its prey is found by feeling with their flexible fingers and opposable thumb probing under rocks and in crevices enabling this otter to thrive in poor visibility waters.
We often see signs of small antelopes on the trail and occasionally catch a glimpse of The Cape or southern GrysbokRaphicerus melanotis endemic to the Western Cape. Other Antelope seen are Steenbok Raphicerus campestris and Common Duiker Sylvicapra grimmia mostly these antelope are browsers but will take fresh grasses, The Grysbok has been seen in the open on the beach or on the crest of the dunes, best results to observe this behaviour happens when moving quietly.
Marine Mammals An opportunity to see the Cape fur SealArctocephalus pusillus off Quoin Point where there is a large breeding colony(over 3000 seals make a colony) of a few thousand seals on the Shipwreck shore section, and again a chance to get closer on the Walk with whales section (a much smaller non breeding colony) where these seals have recently started congregating this new colony has had a direct result of more sightings of great white sharks in the immediate area, although a breaching shark seen from shore is a once in a lifetime occurrence myself and a few others have been fortunate enough to have experienced this spectacle on a walk in this area. Its also common to find seal carcasses washed ashore with large tell tail bite marks. The large breeding colony of seals on Geyser Rock (Dyer island) produces over 8 000 pups a year or 3 % of the seal pup population in southern Africa.
Between May and December Southern Right WhalesEubalaena australis occupy protected bays along the South African coast they arrive to calve and mate. Possibly the easiest whale to identify by its lack of dorsal fin and its logging (floating) behaviour, the whales also have a number ofcallosities on its head used to identify individuals,other behaviour such as breaching, sailing, lobtailing, or spyhopping can be witnessed. Since hunting ceased, stocks are estimated to have grown by 7% a year, or doubling every 10 years. During the whale season these gentle giants can be seen on all stages of the walk but to get up close and personal the best place is De kelders on the walk with Whales section the steep drop off allows us to approach along the cliff path where we can see these whales from a distance of 20 meters away, feel and smell their breath as they blow, it’s a special experience you never tire of. Other species of Baleen whales are often seen in walker bay including Humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae usually stop off for a while on the longest mammal migration north, Bryde’s Whales Balaenoptera edeni are year round visitors to this bay sometimes seen feeding on the pilchards or anchovies that congregate here. Dolphins are also a common site but from shore identification can be difficult usually only by there behaviour, these long-beaked common Dolphin often in large pods of several hundred to thousands can be seen often feeding on schooling fish offshore attracting an aerial assault from cape gannets. This spectacle can be over in minuets or last for hours.
Many bones of various mammals final resting place is the coast where they wash ashore and decay leaving bleached bones for us to examine their anatomy, with whale bones the size and weight is always a good thing as it hinders people removing them from the environment. Living and working in the coastal environment I’m occasionally faced with a species that doesn’t belong here, this Crabeater seal Lobodon carcinophagus by far the most abundant seal in the world is confined to pack-ice zone around Antarctica an extremely rare sighting here. Despite there name they feed almost exclusively on krill with specialized teeth for sieving the krill from the water. This lost animal became the focus of one of many marine mammal rescues with the help of Wilfred Chivell from Dyer Island Conservation trust.
When Neanderthal man was still ruling supreme in Europe, modern people were living in caves along this coast 85/100 thousand years ago. Evidence of this has been found in Klipgat cave in the Walker Bay Nature Reserve, one of the most important cultural assets in the Western Cape. We can visit this cave and see how the San’s way of life set the blueprint for our first steps out of Africa. (important to realise that the total number of Homo sapiens was less than 5000 at this time)
Genetic and fossil evidence is interpreted to show that archaic Homo sapiens evolved to anatomically modern humans solely in Africa, between 200,000 and 150,000 years ago, that members of one branch of Homo sapiens left Africa by between 125,000 and 60,000 years ago, and that over time these humans replaced earlier human populations such as Neanderthals and Homo erectus.
The first human inhabitants of this region were the people generally referred to as San (sahn). The southern San, pure hunter gatherers, are culturally extinct; their surviving northern cousins refer to themselves as ‘Bushmen’. The acceptability of both terms is a subject of endless debate. Most of their languages are sadly extinct, but their linguistic influence survives in some names.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the Khoi (coy), distant cousins of the San, entered Southern Africa a little more than 2000 years ago. Pastoralists with flocks of sheep and later herds of cattle the Khoekhoen (Khoe-speakers) they probably clashed with the hunter gatherer San and this is reflected in Khoi names for some San groups, names that existed before European colonisation, such as Hawequas and Obiekwa (murderers) and even the name San itself ,with its variants Zonqua and Tanqua ( thieves, vagabonds). Many San were probably assimilated by the Khoi and by 1652 the remaining San were pretty much confined to the mountain vastness of the Cape, and it was some years before the Dutch encountered them.
There is no written evidence of our ancient past and little investigative documentation from the colonists that arrived over the last 400 years but everywhere along this coastline there are heaps of shell’s and other debris that is the result of early people visiting the shore and collecting shellfish. These refuse dumps of ancient beachcombers give us an invaluable insight into tens of thousands of years of history, a priceless and fragile heritage resource. natural
Naturally made beach deposits also exist when stormy seas throw heaps of shells and other debris high up the shore beyond the reach of normal high tides, over the millennia these heaps will weather and bleach until they may look superficially like a shell midden but the contents of a natural beach deposit will be different from a midden, Shell middens typically have only a few species, those preferred by people as food, only limited sizes of shells, those considered large enough to collect, and have a range of other materials such as bones, tools, wood charcoal that are rare or absent in natural shell accumulations.
Shell middens are protected by legislation, no private excavation is allowed.
Archiological excavations at Klipgat cave proves that this site was occupied by middle Stone Age people from more than 100,000 years ago, uncovering stone tools in the early shell midden. There is then a period of absenteeism when the cave was filled with drift sand and again during the last ice age peaking 18,000 years ago when the planet was much colder and dryer when the sea level dropped as much as 130 meters and the coastline was more than a 100km from its present position but later stone-age people moved back into the area 10,000 years ago when sea levels returned to approximately present levels. With this return the bow and arrow was the preferred hunting weapon, shell beads and pendants were worn and artist created rock paintings (although non is evident in Klipgat cave) The last 2000 years the cave was used by Khoekhoe herders leaving sheep bones and earthenware pottery, at the time of European contact the Khoekhoe living in the cave were the Chainouqua who were thought to have built the substantial fish traps that were later taken over and maintained by European settlers and fishermen.
However Based on the current evidence archival research was conducted to obtain as much info as possible about patterns of use of fish traps in historic times. In addition, the reports on fish- remains from archaeological sites in the Western Cape have been re-evaluated. The results of the archaeological investigation indicated NO ASSOCIATION between the Later Stone Age middens and fish traps and none of the archaeological sites in the literature suggest fishing on a scale normally associated with fish trapping. a pre-colonial age for the practice of fishing with stone–walled fish traps can no longer be entertained. Reference:
( Place names in the capeEd Coombe & Peter Slingsby)
( Human Beginnings in South Africa. HJ Deacon & Janette Deacon)
(Shorelines, strandlopers and shell middens Jon Parkington)
Abstract from P J HINE’S thesis on his MASTERS of PHILOSOPHY in DEPT ARCHAEOLOGY at UNIV CAPE TOWN, 2008
(Southern tip of Africa Stephan Wolfart)
Shipwreck stories Cape Whale Coast
Notable shipwrecks between Danger point and Agulhas
The makers of maps that show the shipwrecks along the South African coast must have struggled to deal with the coast of the Southern Overberg. Between Danger Point to the west and Cape Infanta, the outer eastern point of De Hoop Nature Reserve, about 140 shipwrecks are mapped. Most of these shipwrecks are concentrated around Cape Agulhas, Arniston and Quoin Point.
The history of Quoin Point and its shipwrecks is closely connected to that of Elim, the Moravian mission village on the road between Baardskeerdersbos and Bredasdorp. Over the years, residents of Elim have often provided assistance to victims of shipwrecks. Accounts from 1838 already mention that men and women of Elim collected the valuable cargo of the Duke of Northumberland, a troop ship that stranded near Cape Agulhas. Of the people on board the ship only a few survived. When the Cape Agents of the shipping company arrived, they found that the 38 bodies that were washed ashore had already been interred. Food was brought in from Elim to feed the starving survivors.
After people from Elim provided assistance at the wrecking of the Jessie in 1829 at Quoin Point, Queen Victoria granted the right to use the land at Quoin Point to residents. This was a clever move since it assured people would be present to assist shipwreck survivors at this treacherous point were shipwrecking was more the rule than the exception. Today there is still a small light-tower surrounded by some cottages owned by the Schipper- and October-families of Elim.
Originally, Quoin Point was named Ponta de sao Brandoa by Bartolomeu Diaz when he rounded Quoin Point in 1488 on the nameday of the Irish monk St. Brendanus. Later the name changed to Quoin Point, but the locals call it Jessie se Punt (Jessie's Point).
Joanna | 1682 (Johanna)
The Joanna was the first English East Indiaman that wrecked on the South African coastline. She was on her way from England to the East when she stranded just east of Quoin Point. Ten people drowned but a group of 104 reached Cape Town. Rumours of a treasure on board spread through town, causing Governor Simon van der Stel to send the Dutch East India Company official Olaf Bergh to investigate. Bergh found a few bodies, which he buried, but also several bottles of brandy and wine and -more interesting for Bergh's mission- a few hundred Spanish coins. Bergh and his group got onto the wreck of the Joanna and recovered numerous other coins before he returned to Cape Town; mission successfully accomplished.
Exactly 300 years after the Joanna went down, her remains were re-discovered. Over 23'000 coins and a few hundred kilograms of silver were salvaged.
Nicobar | wrecked 1783
A day of fishing off Quoin Point in 1987 brought good fortune for Louis Groenewald and Wilfred Chivell, both born and bred Gansbaaiers. Hanging over the side of their boat, they spotted something on the ocean floor. The dived down to check it out and found a canon and a box with money. Back in Gansbaai they realized that they had found the wreck of the Nicobar, a Danish ship with an enormous cargo of copper-plate money. The Nicobar had not been seen since it went down in 1783 taking all aboard, except 11, with her. Louis and Wilfred returned to the wreck and took 4 months to salvage what turned out to be the biggest find of copper-plate-money in the world. Chivell, a conservationist, now owns Dyer Island Cruises, a company organizing whale watching boat tours from Kleinbaai, a small harbour on Danger Point Peninsula.
Doncaster | wrecked 1836
The Doncaster was on her way from Mauritius to England when she found her premature last resting place at the mouth of the Ratel River, east of Quoin Point. There were no survivors. Local witnesses described how bodies were continually washed ashore as well as limbs and other body-parts. In one account about the incident it was stated that the local field-cornet and his men buried "38 men and boys, 18 women and one coloured woman" (Apartheid clearly, was not restricted to the 20th century).
The bodies of the victims, mostly naked, were too disfigured to be identified and in a letter to the shipping agents in Cape Town it was almost apologetically mentioned that "some two or three had rings on, but their fingers were too swollen to take them off". "A more melancholy sight is scarcely to be witnessed", states the same account.
A man with the name of Hans Aventure (A person likely to be of Khoi-descent since he is described as "Hottentot", as the Dutch called the Khoi-people in imitation oftheir click language) witnessed the ship perish after she had been "ten or twelve days standing in and off the shore before the disaster happened, sometimes so near to shore that the voices of the crew could be heard".
The beach was covered with parts of the ship, uniforms of different regiments (some of the people aboard were invalid soldiers from the hospital in Mauritius, sent back to England), music-, prayer- and hymn- books. The most curious find was a box with part of a stomach of a soldier which was meant for the Chief Medical Officer in London.
Though not much of value was found amongst the items washed up, 1000 persons were present at the sale of the remains of the Doncaster. Of the proceeds of a little over R 3000, R 700 was used to pay the field cornet and other men that had patrolled the shores for weeks and another R 700 for labour and miscellaneous expenses.
Teuton | wrecked 1881
On route from Cape Town to Port Elisabeth, the English steamer Teuton struck a rock off Quoin Point. The rock was known and charted.
Although the Teuton was making water, Captain Manning decided that the Teuton could still reach the port of Simons Town in False Bay. He ordered to man the pumps and -just in case- to ready the life boats. Not much later the propeller came out of the water and the bow went down. Manning now realized the ship could not be saved and ordered to abandon ship. Captain and crew must have made a secure and relaxed impression: the first life boat parted from the ship with a lot of laughter and cheering. The second life boat was however never launched as the Teuton suddenly and immediately went down before anyone on board could say "oops". Captain Manning never had to answer for his deadly error; he perished with the ship together with 235 other crew and passengers. Only the 36 that made it to the first life-boat survived.
Avala | wrecked 1938 or 1939 (sources differ on the exact date)
In 1938 the 17 year old Samuel Schippers from Elim was catching fish with Herman October and other Elimmers at Quoin Point when he spotted the Avala drifting to shore. Mr. Samuel Schippers has told his story in 2000 to Liane van der Hoven of the University of Stellenbosch who has wrote it down in her thesis "Elim : a cultural historical study of a Moravian mission station at the southern extreme of Africa".
While drinking morning-coffee the group of Elimmers watched the Avala go down close to shore. The Elim-men saw in horror how the two lifeboats that moved away from the Avala headed for a reef, invisible to the crews. The Elimmers made a fire and hoisted a flag on some improvised poles to warn them for the dangers ahead and to direct them towards a safe landing place. Once safely on shore, the crew -instead of being grateful for their lives- treated Samuel and his companions with mistrust. They feared that the Elimmers would rob them of their belongings. Communication was an issue. Samuel stated that it was impossible to understand their language. Luckily one of the Elimmers spoke some English and so did one of the crew members. A certain level of trust was established and Samuel and his companions helped the shipwreck survivors to get their belongings to shore. Although the Avala carried coal for delivery in Rangoon, Samuel remembers how 22 barrels of wine floated ashore from the wreck.
City of Lincoln | 1946
Jan Fourie, famous Gansbaaier and local historian, describes in "Duskant die Duine"* how as a child he witnessed the salvaging of the City of Lincoln:
A fishing boat was used by the custom officials to transport the valuable cargo from the wreck to the settlement of Buffeljag. Apart from a cargo worth 2 million pounds, there were 13 new Dodge and Plymouth cars on board. These cars were purchased for the visit of the English Royal family that was to take place in 1947. Several of these cars had been thrown overboard. Jan remembers how many years later he spotted a car-engine in the water at the same place; the only item remaining of what should have been a proud car serving a royal visit.
Custom officials clearly did not have all under control. Jan Fourie writes how custom officials only became suspicious when domestic staff showed up at the local cinema in expensive fur-coats. A Caterpillar earth-moving machine was salvaged from the City of Lincoln and has ploughed the local fields for many years.
The propellers of two salvage ships, the Swona and the Fynd got tangled with the cables and both vessels shared the fate of the City of Lincoln and end up on the beach. Their remains can still be seen there today.
And the reason for the disaster? Simple: three of the officers on duty were drunk.
*Duskant die Duine is a collection of stories about people and events in and around Danger Point Peninsula written by Jan and his wife, SD Fourie. Duskant die Duine was first published in 2005. ISBN number 0-620-34044-4. Jan and SD also run the private Strandveld Museum on the cliffs of Franskraal. The Strandveld Museum harbors the largest collection of relics of the legendary HMT Birkenhead.
Esso Wheeling | wrecked 1948
In modern days, marine oil spillage is one of the main threats for seabirds. The Esso Wheeling wrecked in 1948 at the west side of Quoin Point and its oil drifted towards Dyer Island, home to 10'000ths of African penguins and other seabirds. The subsequent oil spillage killed an estimated one third of the colony of African penguins on Dyer Island. In 1952 an oil slick of unknown origin was spilled in South African waters. Bob Rand, leading South African ornithologist at the time, described this incident as follows: "Soiled penguins died on the beaches or lingered on the islands to perish of hunger. Where nesting birds were affected, chicks also died. No matter how small the contamination, the birds refused to take to the water."
As from 1968, due to the closure of the Suez Canal, oil tankers, not designed to cope with the waters around the Capa de todos Tormentos (The Cape of all storms, as the Cape of Good Hope was firstly named) were forced to take the long route and round Cape Point. In 1968 the Esso Essen, rounded the Cape illegally within the prescribed 16 km safety zone (it was 5 km from shore) and struck an object. After the oil spillage of 4000 tonnes, thousands of sea birds were found oiled and virtually all died. After the Esso Essen incident, the Southern African National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB in short) was established. Over the years suitable facilities have been developed to deal with oiled seabirds, especially penguins. After the Esso Essen, there were 5 other oil spills that affected more than 1000 penguins. The worst incident on the South African coast was the sinking of the iron ore carrier Apolla Sea near Dassen Island, which resulted in the oiling of more than 10'000 penguins. The last oil spill that affected more than 1000 birds was off Danger Point in 1995. Still, each year, about a 1000 oiled penguins are brought to SANCCOB due to small oil spillages.
Source : Les Underhill / Avian demography unit / University of Cape Town.
Le Centaur was a French ship carrying 300 crew, 100 passengers and a cargo which consisted solely of "peppercorns". She was commanded by Captain Monsieur de la Butte and bound from Mauritius to France, when on the 19th January 1750, she ran aground a little west of Cape Agulhas in fine weather.
Quote: "All would have been well had the Captain kept his head, but a few hasty decisions led to faulty manoeuvres. Before he quite realized the risks he was incurring, his ship was caught in an inshore current and carried ashore, grounding gently on a sandy bottom, the succeeding waves pushing her in further, until she was so tightly held that the men labouring in the boats could not haul her off again. The order to abandon ship brought the 400 people, including several woman and children, crowding to the side. In an orderly fashion they jumped down, or were lifted down, to the beach in safety. They were several days trek from the Castle, but to attempt that heart-breaking journey was preferable to camping on the beach in the remote hope of eventual deliverance from the sea. Lines of seamen passed the bags and barrels in which provisions and water were taken from the ship to dump on the beach. As the last man leaped from the canting deck, the captain gathered the people and spoke of the ordeal before them and of the need for faith and courage so that at last they might arrive safely. He portioned out the supplies, each according to what he could carry. Thus burdened, the trekkers started hopefully, along a coast of precipitous cliffs, resounding river mouths and wide loose beaches, a distance of a few hundred miles that in the absence of even elementary footpaths became a torture of the damned even for tough seamen, let alone for the pitifully faltering women and children. So passed the days of agony, of bleeding feet, blistered heels and torn, weary limbs, days of depleted rations and little water, of hot sun and stinging wind, until finally there was nothing to eat and drink and the Cape still far away. The weak dropped out to die their lonely, neglected deaths on the bitter trail. But when at last news of the wreck reached the Castle, relief wagons were hurried out to pick up the survivors." Unquote.
Aqua Exploration discovered the "Le Centaur " wreck-site in 1984 while searching for another treasure ship named the "Nossa Senhora dos Milagros ". Until positive identification could be established, they drew up a site plan and started with the excavation using their Blower for the sand removal. Their main artefacts for identification came in the form of a huge bell and a small corroded coin. After a couple of weeks a coin expert identified the coin to be a French "Double Sol" which dated the wreck between 1738 and 1770. The bell belonged to a Jesuit Priest. As the Blower removed the overburden sand, so peppercorns were seen everywhere. Charles looked up in his records and came across the French ship named Le Centaur 1750 and on doing further research, found out that her cargo consisted solely of "peppercorns!" Other artefacts found were complete wine "onion" bottles, a gold earring, parts of a pig's skeleton which had parts of a wooden cage around it and shards of thick porcelain.
HMS Birkenhead In January 1852, under the command of Captain Robert Salmond RN, the Birkenhead left Portsmouth conveying troops from ten different regiments, including the 74th Regiment of Foot and Queen's Royal Regiment, to the 8th Xhosa War (then called the "Kaffir War") against the Xhosa in South Africa. On 5 January she picked up more soldiers at Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland and conveyed some officers' wives and families. On 23 February 1852 Birkenhead docked briefly at Simonstown, near Cape Town. Most of the women and children disembarked along with a number of sick soldiers. Nine cavalry horses, several bales of hay and 35 tons of coal were loaded for the last leg of the voyage to Algoa Bay. She sailed from Simon's Bay at 06:00 on 25 February 1852 with between 630 and 643 men, women, and children aboard, the number being in some doubt. In order to make the best possible speed, Captain Salmond decided to hug the South African coast, setting a course that was generally within 3 miles (4.8 km) of the shore. Using her paddle wheels she maintained a steady speed of 8.5 knots (15.7 km/h). The sea was calm and the night was clear as she left False Bay and headed east. Danger PointAlgoa BaySimon's BayWestern Cape, South AfricaShortly before 02:00 on 26 February, when she was travelling at 8 knots (15 km/h), the leadsman made soundings of 12 fathoms (22 m). Before he could take another sounding she struck an uncharted rock , with 2 fathoms (3.7 m) of water beneath her bows and 11 fathoms (20 m) at her stern. The rock lies near Danger Point. Barely submerged, it is clearly visible in rough seas, but it is not immediately apparent in calmer conditions. Captain Salmond rushed on deck and ordered the anchor to be dropped, the quarter-boats to be lowered, and a turn astern to be given by the engines. However, as the ship backed off the rock, the sea rushed into the large hole made by the collision and the ship struck again, buckling the plates of the forward bilge and ripping open the bulkheads. Shortly, the forward compartments and the engine rooms were flooded, and over 100 soldiers were drowned in their berths. The surviving soldiers mustered and awaited their officers' orders. Salmond ordered Colonel Seton to send men to the chain pumps, and sixty were directed to this task, sixty more were assigned to the tackles of the lifeboats, while the rest were assembled on the poop deck in order to raise the forward part of the ship. The women and children were placed in the ship's cutter, which lay alongside. Two other boats were manned, but one was immediately swamped and the other could not be launched due to poor maintenance and paint on the winches, leaving only three boats available. The two large boats, with capacities of 150 men each, were not among them. The surviving officers and men assembled on deck, where Lieutenant-Colonel Seton of the 74th Foot took charge of all military personnel and stressed the necessity of maintaining order and discipline to his officers. Almost everybody kept silent, indeed nothing was heard, but the kicking of the horses and the orders of Salmond, all given in a clear firm voice. The Wreck of the Birkenhead by Charles DixonTen minutes after the first impact, the engines still turning astern, the ship struck again beneath the engine room, tearing open her bottom. She instantly broke in two just aft of the mainmast. The funnel went over the side and the forepart of the ship sank at once. The stern section, now crowded with men, floated for a few minutes before sinking. Just before she sank, Salmond called out that "all those who can swim jump overboard, and make for the boats". Colonel Seton, however, recognising that rushing the lifeboats would risk swamping them and endangering the women and children, ordered the men to stand fast, and only three men made the attempt. The cavalry horses were freed and driven into the sea in the hope that they might be able to swim ashore. The soldiers did not move, even as the ship broke up barely 20 minutes after striking the rock. Some of the soldiers managed to swim the 2 miles (3.2 km) to shore over the next 12 hours, often hanging on to pieces of the wreck to stay afloat, but most drowned, died of exposure or were taken by sharks.
SS ALCESTIS “(British steel screw ship, 1850 tons, built in 1890), en route from Glasgow to Mauritius; cargo: government stores, explosives and railway material; struck a sunken wreck and sank 2,5 km off Brandfontein, 28/02/1895.” (Eastern Province Herald, 2/03/1892; Lloyds Register of Shipping, 1891-92)
BARBARA GORDON “(British wooden barque, 338 tons, built in 1836), en route from Adelaide to Swansea and London; cargo: 338 tons of copper ore and 181 bales of wool; wrecked on a reef east of Ratel River, 5/05/1853; 6 survivors and a few crew members, 5 passengers and one crew member survived.” (Cape Town Mail, 14, 17/05/1853; Lloyds Register of Shipping, 1853-54; Shipping Register, Cape Archives, C.C. 2/18)
GRACE “(British vessel, 250 tons, built in 1811), en route from Port Jackson to London; cargo: wool and grain oil; wrecked near Ratel River after catching fire and abandoned on 4/6/1822; no lives were lost.” (Cape archives, C.O. 2640 No 53)
DUCHESS OF BUCCLEUGH (British wooden barque, 404 tons, built 1843), en route from Calcutta to London; cargo: indigo, rice, sugar and silk; run ashore on a sandy beach close to the Ratel River mouth, 13/06/1850. (Cape Town Mail, 15/06/1850; Lloyds Register of Shipping, 1850-51; Shipping Register, Cape Archives, C.C. 2/17)
GLORIA DEO (Italian barque, 977 tons), en route from Singapore to Falmouth; cargo: rice and rattans; wrecked on a reef in front of the Ratel River, 19/06/1882; 15 survivors. (Cape Argus, 3, 5/07/1882; Shipping Register, Cape Archives, C.C. 3/7/2/3)
NORTH-EAST (British iron barque, 1022 tons, built 1863), en route from Manilla to New York; cargo: 17 424 bags of sugar, 355 000 cigars, 43 cases of pearl shells, 128 bales of hides, 5070 bales of hemp or jute; wrecked in vicinity of the Ratel River, 13/12/1872, (Rietfontein strand); all on board survived, total unknown. (Lloyds Register of Shipping, 1872-73; Shipping Register, Cape Archives, C.C. 3/7//2/2)
R.P. BUCK (American barque, 926 tons), en route Robalingo to Falmouth; cargo: sugar; wrecked 24 km west of Cape Agulhas near the Ratel River, 4/04/1877; no lives were lost. (Shipping Register, Cape Archives, C.C. 3/7/2/2)
Otori Maru 8 Japanese fishing trawler grounded at Shell point, Bantamsklip in 1984. Wrecked in dense fog. Still visible
Un Hung Taiwanese fishing vessel 1989 Hall bay Pearly beach. Still visible
Ghostships Seven shipwrecks surround Danger Point Peninsula and 140 wrecks are dotted along the shores between Danger Point and Cape Infanta. Yet Danger Point was given the most impressive name. Perhaps it is an applicable name for the spot where the legendary "Flying Dutchman" was first seen. Local historian SD Fourie has recorded the story of the unfortunate Captain van der Decken:
The flying Dutchman "……..the captain is driving his ship mercilessly off the Cape in heavy weather. Sails are lost, decks are flooded, and the seamen beseech him to give up the attempt to round the Cape. Van der Decken lashes himself to the wheel and carries on, swearing that even God will not force him to change his mind. His blasphemous oath is heard. Out of the dark and ominous sky falls a brilliant shaft of light, and the Holy Ghost steps on to the deck. Van der Decken draws a pistol from his belt and fires. His arm falls withered at his side, and the Holy Ghost delivers sentence: "You have defied the wrath of God, and now you will sail these seas until the end of time. You will know thirst and hunger, but never will you know calm seas again. Henceforward you will bring misfortune to all who sight you."
Captain Owen, R.N., who charted long stretches of the South African Coast, declared that he saw the flying Dutchman. The encounter appears in the logbook of H.M.S. Leven, dated 6 April, 1823. Owen was near Danger Point and bound for Simon's Bay when he thought he saw his consort, H.M.S. Barracouta. This appearance surprised him as Barracouta had been ordered elsewhere. The Leven did not attempt to make close contact. When she reached Simons's Bay she waited for a week before the Barracouta arrived. They compared log-books, and it was found that the two naval ships were three hundred miles apart when Owen intercepted the mystery ship.
Far more famous was the encounter near Danger Point witnessed by Prince Albert Victor and Prince George of Wales, later King George V. The young princes were both midshipmen, cruising in H.M.S. Bachante. The meeting was entered in the log-book as follows: "July 11, 1881. During the middle-watch the so called Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. She first appeared as a strange red light, as of a ship aglow, in the midst of which light her masts, spars and sails, seemingly those of a normal brig, some two hundred yards distant from us, stood out in long relief as she came up." The report in the log-book went on, describing the ship in the smallest detail. Thirteen people saw the ghost-ship, but whether it was the Flying Dutchman or one of the other few alleged phantom ships which are reputed to haunt this area, must remain unknown.
London newspapers in 1911 published a message describing an American whaler off the Cape that had almost collided with a sailing ship believed to be the Flying Dutchman. Cape Town papers early in 1939 described a queer experience in False Bay, when people on the beaches saw a sailing ship beating up towards Muizenberg. It seemed that the ship would run into the breakers, but just before reaching the shallows she vanished. They all swore they had seen the Flying Dutchman.
Koen Kano, the baron Von Münchhausen of Gansbaai, was one of the best storytellers in the Strandveld. He used to tell that he met Captain Van der Decken and his fateful ship while fishing off Dyer Island. He thought they might like to have some fish and approached the ship. Van der Decken asked him to fetch anybody in Gansbaai who could beat him at swearing. Maybe such a man could help him round the Cape of Storms. Koen fetched a well known fisherman, full of grog at the local bar and between the two of them they helped the Flying Dutchman round the Cape. "For keeps. That devil would not dare to fish again in Gansbaai seas!" said Koen. (Almost forgotten, never told, Lawrence G. Green. Wisselstrale oor die Strandveld, Jan Fourie.)
There are five species of abalone endemic to South Africa, but only one, Haliotis midae, is of any commercial value. Known in South Africa as perlemoen (from the Dutch Paarlemoer, meaning mother-of-pearl), it was endemic to several hundred kilometres of South African coastline stretching from Table Bay to the Eastern Cape before overexploitation threatened it with extinction.
It is a large marine snail with a shell length of up to 230mm that lives in shallow water and takes seven to nine years to mature. It is believed to live for 30 years or longer.
The meat of perlemoen has always been highly valued in East Asia, and South Africans were aware of its commercial value throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Unrestricted commercial harvesting began in South Africa in 1949. By the mid-1960s, about 2,800 tons of abalone were being taken from the sea annually. In a bid to stem overexploitation and protect the resource, seasonal quotas were introduced in 1970. The first annual quota (or Total Allowable Catch) was 700 tons, and decreased marginally and incrementally over the following two-and-a-half decades; by 1995, the annual quota was 615 tons.
It is common knowledge that poaching is as old as the quota itself, but it is also common knowledge that levels of poaching remained negligible – or at very least containable – for the first two decades after the quota’s introduction. All of this changed dramatically during South Africa’s transition to democracy.
Poaching began to escalate in the early 1990s. By the late 1990s it had become a highly organised, multi-million dollar illicit industry, controlled by street gangs on the shoreline and by transnational criminal enterprises on the trade routes to East Asia.
Despite increasing investments in shoreline patrolling and enforcement, the initiation of several large and well-resourced organised crime investigative projects, and countless plans to reorganise the control of South Africa’s borders, it appears that the illegal industry has been able to harvest and export South African abalone at will.
The poaching of perlemoen is an extremely complex ongoing issue and the effects on the environment are only speculative at best, what is known is that this scale of poaching is not sustainable and as the resource slowly becomes more difficult to obtain local fishing, residential and holiday communities now have established gangs and there associated activities including drugs use and distribution and general escalating crime to contend with.
The amazing limpets of South Africa
The name limpet is most often applied to members of the clade Patellogastropoda, the true limpets, which are all marine; however, the feature of a simple conical shell has arisen independently many times in gastropod evolution, in many different lineages, some of which have gills and some of which have a lung. The name is given on the basis of a limpet-like or "patelliform" shell, but the several groups of snails that have a shell of this form are not at all closely related to one another: Most of the marine limpets have gills, whereas all the freshwater limpets and a few of the marine limpets have a mantle cavity that is adapted to breathe air and function as a lung (and in some cases has been again adapted to absorb oxygen from water) all these various kinds of snail are only very distantly related. In other words, the name limpet is used to describe various extremely diverse groups of gastropods that have independently evolved a shell of the same basic shape. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limpet
When it comes to limpets southern Africa is the world’s foremost biodiversity and biomass hotspot, with some areas having densities of 2,600 individuals per square meter. Limpets at first glance are static, even boring creatures, but a closer look reveals an evolutionary masterpiece. Cape false-limpet uses chemical weapons as defence; Giant limpets use brute force in territorial battles; Ducks foot limpet develops and tends gardens of algae; Goat’s eye limpets slam their shells down like a guillotine, dismembering ferocious predators, Kelp limpet’s parachute from the canopy when kelp breaks loose in storms before being cast ashore. The Limpets’ shell shape and amazing adhesion has allowed them to become the dominant species on rocky shores exposed to heavy wave action. Each individual limpet has what is called a home scare when the shell grows to fit the particular rock it inhabits, there are some limpets that produce an acidic mucus which softens the rock and with their iron tipped radular (toung) rasp out the rock creating a tight fit for their shell. (ref of )
The Duck’s foot limpet Scutellastra longicosta Establish gardens of Ralfsia which they defend from other grazers buy pushing other limpets away, the duck’s foot prune this algae by eating furrows stimulating growth within a manageable territory. The symbiosis is mutual as the algae receives waist products (fertilizer) from the limpet.
The Kelp limpet Cymbula compressa has a concave opening fitting the stem of Sea bamboo (Kelp) Ecklonia maxima. The kelp limpet also defends its territory the entire plant from intruders, its diet is not the kelp but fern-like epiphytes that attach to the kelps stem, which when not controlled create hydro drag often breaking the kelps holdfast and so washing the plant ashore. This is not necessarily the end for the kelp limpet as it can sense the change in pressure when the kelp dislodges and releases itself from the kelp and floats to the seabed to find another unoccupied kelp, this is a perilous journey, with many predators like Whelks that drill holes in the shell of the limpet receiving a protein rich meal, these attacks can be survived unless vital organs are penetrated.
Pear Limpets Scutellastra cochlear is very slow growing living 25 years living in dense aggregations also cultivates algae a coralline and a faster growing red algae to sustain larger individuals. The shape of the pear limpet has been influenced on islands off the coast, by the African Black oystercatcher here this bird flourishes far from human influences. A favourite diet of the Oystercatcher is the pear limpet and by approaching from behind, being the fat end of the pear (out of the limpets vision) the oystercatcher is able to prize the limpet of the rocks before it has time to react, through natural selection a few Pear limpets with a more oval shape shell have been able to survive and reproduce, and become the dominant shape of Pear limpets on the islands.
Goats eye limpet Cymbula oculus
The juveniles have a flecked iridescent green in their shells and are usually found under boulders starting life as a male becoming female in the second or third year. As fully grown adult females they are able to aggressively counter attacking predators such as whelks and even spiny starfish by quickly guillotining predators appendages foolish enough to probe under the shell, the predator soon retreats and is often mortally wounded, smaller goats eye limpets will in limpet terms flee on sight of danger.
Source Ref books
Two oceans a guide to the marine life of southern Africa of life in southern Africa’s two oceans
Currents of Contrast: Life in Southern Africa's Two Oceans by Thomas Peschak (Author)
Rare find A Loggerhead Turtle, Cape Coast
The loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) A rare sighting on a guided walk on the Perlemoen Trail in Jessie’s Bay Quoin Point Reserve. Loggerheads are considered an endangered species and are protected by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Loggerhead sea turtles spend most of their lives in the open ocean and in shallow coastal waters. They rarely come ashore, with the exception of the females' brief visits to construct nests and deposit eggs. Hatchling loggerhead turtles live in floating mats of Sargassum algae. Adults and juveniles live along the continental shelf, as well as in shallow coastal estuaries. Loggerheads occupy waters with surface temperatures ranging from 13.3–28 °C Very few loggerheads are found along the European and African coastlines.
The loggerhead sea turtle is the world's largest hard-shelled turtle. Adult loggerheads have an average weight range of 80 to 200 kilograms
The loggerhead takes on a floating, cold-stunned posture when temperatures drop to approximately 10 °C However, younger loggerheads are more resistant to cold and do not become stunned until temperatures drop below 9 °C
The loggerhead sea turtle is omnivorous, feeding mainly on bottom-dwelling invertebrates, such as gastropods, bivalves, and decapods. The loggerhead has a greater list of known prey than any other sea turtle.
Once in the ocean, hatchlings swim for about 20 hours, bringing them far offshore.An iron compound, magnetite, in their brains allows the turtles to perceive the Earth's magnetic field, for navigation. Many hatchlings use Sargassumin the open ocean as protection until they reach 45 centimeters Hatchling loggerheads live in this pelagic environment until they reach juvenile age, and then they migrate to nearshore waters.
Female loggerheads first reproduce between the ages of 17 and 33 years
Loggerhead sea turtles were once intensively hunted for their meat and eggs; consumption has decreased, however, due to worldwide legislation.Fishing gear is the biggest threat to loggerheads in the open ocean. They often become entangled in longlines or gillnets.
Loggerhead sea turtles are classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
This little guy must have come down with the Agulhas current,and should have been collected and sent to the Two Oceans Aquarium for rehabilitation.
Rocky shorelines frequently contain tidal pools of varying sizes, and they may have provided some unique conditions that would have made biogenesis possible, (the chemistry that created this primordial soup 4 billion years ago).
When gazing into a rock pool, spotting the many different organisms in this ecosystem, it’s worth pondering life’s origins born of this environment of extremes.
A hint at our own aquatic past is suggested in a correlation between the human menstrual cycle and the lunar cycle. Many aquatic species follow the same lunar cycles influence on the tides for reproduction.
fun Interesting facts from your guide
Cormorants ability to swim underwater is aided by having a reduced preening gland, which most birds use to condition and repel water from their feathers.
Southern right whales testes weigh 500kg each. They compete with other males by volume of sperm.
Cape fur seals exhale, collapsing their lungs, to dive deep underwater. High levels of haemoglobin in their blood and myoglobin in the muscles bind large amounts of oxygen molecules to be used up in the dive.
Gannets have air bags in their heads and chests to reduce impact on vital organs when hitting the water at 100km per hour
River pebbles are rounded whereas sea pebbles are flattened due to the folding action of the waves.
Octopus have 3 hearts, one for each lung and the other for the circulatory system. They also have neurological thanatosis, meaning they can send signals to limbs but can’t receive information back.
Cartilaginous fish (sharks and rays) have placoid tooth-like scales - each has a central core overlaid with dentine and coated with enamel, giving them a rough sand paper texture reducing water turbulence.
Dolphins eyesight is excellent above and below the water. They leap into the air looking for signs of fish, such as the presence of diving birds.
Sea Squirts (red bait) are highly advanced animals that are closely related to vertebrates (animals with a backbone). This is most evident in their larval stage resembling a small tadpole.
Barnacles, by size, have the longest penis in the whole animal kingdom - 30 times the animal’s length, (that is over 45 meters if the barnacle was the same size as a human).
Inter-tidal zones a varied habitat of extremes
Coastal intertidal zones provide a varied habitat of extremes: amazing animals and plants that have adapted and evolved to combat the pounding waves; desiccation at low tide; changes in salinity and temperature in the estuaries and rock pools.
The intertidal region is an important model system for the study of ecology. The region contains a high diversity of species, and the zonation created by the tides causes species ranges to be compressed into very narrow bands. This makes it relatively simple to study species across their entire cross-shore range, something that can be extremely difficult in terrestrial habitats that can stretch thousands of kilometres.
Whales and dolphins South Africa
Undoubtedly the best place to spot these Cetaceans from land is De Kelders, near Gansbaai. From June each year large numbers of Southern Right whales, Eubalaena australis, arrive in Walker Bay to give birth and mate. This bay seems to have the perfect conditions for these gentle giants. Dozens can be seen close up from vantage points along the cliff path. Humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, also pay a visit here on their long migration path, and stay to recoup before continuing north. Bryde’s whales, Balaenoptera brydei, can be seen blowing off shore right throughout the year along with sometimes hundreds of dolphins torpedoing across the bay. Southern right whales are migratory whales which travel between the sub-Antarctic and the southern coastlines of South America, South Africa and Australia. They spend approximately half of the year in the sub-Antarctic regions where feeding is their main objective. Following their time spent stocking up on food reserves, the Southern right whales migrate north between 3000-4000km to their mating and breeding grounds. These whales are most commonly found along the coastlines in South Africa between July and December.
Southern right whales are 14-16m in length that can weigh between 40-60 tonnes. lacking a dorsal fin, unlike most large whales. One of the most distinguishing features of the Southern right whales is the scattering of "callosities" on their head. These callosities are rough patches of skin on which barnacles and whale lice live. Each whale has a unique pattern of these callosities on their head, and the patterns are a useful as mechanisms for individual identification (either visually or by examining photos). When born, calves average between 4-6m in length and 1 ton in weight. The whales have large square-shaped black flippers and a large tail fin that can reach 7m in width. Approximately 4% of Southern right whales are born mostly white in colour; this colour typically becomes a grey/brindle colour in adults. When southern right whales are sighted, either at sea or from the coast, their identity is often facilitated by their " V" shaped blow, due to the positioning of their two blowholes.
These whales got their name historically from early whalers, who determined that these were the "right whales" to hunt, both for commercial value, but also for their ease of hunting. Southern right whales have a relatively slow average swim speed (4-6km/hour), they tend to spend a significant amount of their time at the surface of the water, they would float when dead and many of their calving and mating grounds are close to the coastlines. Now they are considered the "right" whales to watch, again due to their fondness of the coastlines, and for their slow swimming speeds. Conservation Because they were the right whales to catch, the Southern right whale population plunged significantly starting in the late 18th century, right into the 20th century. The whales were initially killed via traditional harpooning but whaling modernized in the early 20th century and boasted steam powered boats with harpoon cannons, further facilitating the decline of the whales. The Southern right whales becoming internationally protected in 1935, but numbers were at a drastic low prior to this. In 1997 the South African population was estimated at 3100 whales, from a total of 7500 in the southern hemisphere, still only thought to be about 10% of original numbers.
Feeding is only thought to occur while the whales are in the sub-Antarctic region. The main food source for Southern right whales is small plankton called copepods. Although each copepod is very small in size, they tend to aggregate in dense groups in the Antarctic waters, facilitating mass feeding opportunities for the whales. Southern right whales do not have teeth, but instead have long baleen plates hanging down from their upper jaw (similar in theory to vertical blinds). They can have more than 200 of these baleen plates, which range in length up to over 2m. These baleen plates have a fringe of hairs running down their sides. The whales swim into the swarms of plankton with the mouth open. To filter out the water they close their mouth, and use their tongue to push the water between the hairy baleen plates (like a sieve), while still keeping the food in their mouth. Feeding behavior is rarely observed while in their mating grounds (with the exception of the nursing calves).
Southern Right Whales are thought to be fairly long lived, at least 50 maybe up to 100 years!
Most females have been observed to work on a 3 year cycle (one year of pregnancy, up to one year with the calf, and one year to recover and rebuild food reserves in preparation of a new cycle). The calves nurse from the mother but it is uncertain for how long this nursing lasts. References: Best, P. 1997. Whale watching in South Africa. The Southern Right Whale. Marine Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria. 2nd edition. 28pp. Best, P. 2007. Whales and Dolphins of the Southern African Subregion. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 338pp. Dyer island conservation
An important part of the coastal experience is discovering the benefits of the abundant plant life. Seaweed is mostly edible (but not always palatable), full of protein, calcium, minerals, vitamins and trace elements. It’s an aquatic pharmacy, an untapped sustainable resource. The list of other everyday products derived from seaweed is astonishing: toothpaste, dental moulds, welding rods, audio speakers, gravies and beer are but a few.
Please note extreme caution if you have seafood allergies
Medicinal fynbos plants
Many spices identified and explained on the Hiking trail.
The Khoisan were the first to discover the healing qualities in the various parts of fynbos plants. Much of this knowledge was embraced by the early European settlers; some of this knowledge is still used today with traditional healers and in modern medicine.
Wild plants are protected by law and may not be picked, dug up or destroyed.
A Few Common coastal Medicinal plants
Sour figCarpobrotus edulis
Creeping plants. Succulent, three-angled leaves, flowers yellow and ageing pink.
Edible fruits used for jams, leaf juice is a natural antiseptic and traditionally gargled with water to treat mouth and throat infections, also used externally to treat eczema, wounds, burns and blue bottle stings.
Bietou, bush-tick berry Osteospermum moniliferum
Large bush simple leaves edges serrated, flowers yellow only S.A.daisy that has berries, black when ripe arranged in a ring.
Sweet edible fruit, Khoi, Zulu and Xhosa believe fruit contain blood strengthening and purifying qualities, used as a tonic recovering from illness, and male impotency. Berrys said to clear adolescent acne and skin problems. Not to be eaten if suffering from sinusitis.
Pigs Ear Cotyledon orbiculata
Stout succulent, large oval ear-like leaves, the stalked hanging tubular flowers have backward-curled petals at the rim.
Leaves used to treat corns, boils, warts and fever blisters. Warmed leaf juice used to treat earache. Internal use dangerous, potentially lethal.
Kooigoed, everlastings Helichrysum cripum
Species Helichrysum are aromatic perennial herbs or shrublets, silvery grey densely hairy or woolly leaves, creamy white flower heads.
Khoi used as a calming tea, also used to treat heart ailments in stock animals.
Said to be a cure for high blood pressure and calming a racing heart. Smoking the leaves used for pain relief. Leaves used as bedding, pillows or pot pourris said to keep bed bugs away.
Sprawling shrub up to 1.5meters high, small heart shaped leaves with serrated margins closely packed on the stem. Berry covered with a visible layer of wax
Boiling berries separates the wax which is in fact a fat. Berries a food for the Khoi and traded in the early days to the Cape colony to add as a component to make candles, floor polish, ointments and soap, root and bark were used medicinally.
Rose-scented pelargoniumPelargonium capitatum
Velvety-leaved low spreading plant with soft stems and perfumed cent.
Remarkable skin softener, scented leaves rubbed into hands to sooth calluses or into heels to soften cracked hard skin, also used in a bath for skin treatment, used to make a medicinal tea.
Dune sageSalvia Africana-lutea
Aromatic shrub growing 2meters tall with densely packed grey finely hairy leaves, orange brown flower clusters at stem ends.
Flowers produce copious nectar and is pollinated by sunbirds. Sage makes an excellent tea for coughs, colds, bronchitis and bacterial infections also used for wounds, skin and scalp problems.
Cape mistletoeViscum capense
Leafless woody parasite with fleshy jointed stems, berries ripen in spring to a translucent yellow
Whole plant harvested, taken as a herbal tea, traditional remedy for asthma, bronchitis and excessive or irregular menstruation, infusion of the fruit stops haemorrhaging especially nose-bleeds, also widely used as a herbal tonic and general health tea. Overdose reportedly causes drowsiness.
Tortoise berryMuraltia spinosa
Spiny shrub growing 1 meter high sparsely covered with small, narrow leaves, numerous pink to purple flowers produce round fleshy red fruit.
Popular thirst quenching snack rich in vitamin C. infusion made with the leaves for colds and flu, include the stems for a bitter digestive, a general tonic for TB and abdominal pains.
Christmas berry or toothache berryChironia baccifera
Much branched shrublet up to 800mm. bright orange-red berries during summer.
Whole plant used medicinally, Khoi used as a purgative and to treat boils and haemorrhoids, decoction of whole plant taken as a blood purifier for acne, sores and boils, the bitter plant causes perspiration and sleepiness. Also used in the Italian aperitif Campari.
White milkwoodSideroxylon inerme
Densely leafy shrub or rounded tree 10 meters tall oval shiny green leaves and stems that bleed a milky latex, small greenish-white flowers produce fleshy purple-black fruits.
Medicinally the bark used in infusions to dispel bad dreams, the decoction used for gall sickness in stock animals. The pulpy edible fruits are best when dried because of sticky latex. The close grained durable wood was used for wagon work, now highly protected.
Wild daggaLeonotis leonurus
Shrub growing 2 meters high with lance-shaped leaves bright orange tubular flowers clustered in whorls at intervals along the stem.
Medicinally the leaves and stem are smoked as a mild narcotic to relieve epilepsy, Leaves and root widely used to treat snakebite and other bites/stings. Along with a long list of uses including high blood pressure, obesity, asthma, viral hepatitis intestinal worms coughs and colds.
Arum LilyZantedeschia aethiopica
Tuberous perennial long heart-shaped leaf, snowy white spathe-like flower.
Only edible if cooked, Swelling of tongue and throat when eaten fresh. Khoi made a dish called Hottentot bread from the root. Large leaves warmed and used as plasters for wounds and sores, not to be crushed juice causes irritation.
Wild plants are protected by law and may not be dug up, pulled up, picked or destroyed; rather visit a nursery and plant in your garden,
Many plants are poisonous never eat or use any plant as medicine unless you are 100% sure of correct identification.
Consult a doctor before using any plant as a medicine.
Source information (Mathia Schwegler, Margaret Roberts, Sean Privett)
Trails are tailored to your specific interests and needs and will at all times be in harmony with the natural environment so that we leave only our footprints. Trail Video link
Group sizes are kept small so that the hike remains intimate with minimal environmental impact. I am passionate about this area's marine ecology and always happy to share and demonstrate the uniqueness of the environment. I learn something new every time i am out there which adds value to the group and the experience.
The yellow sea spider is not a true spider,but has similar characteristics, sometimes found hunting and feeding on prey with its pincer-like appendages (chelifers) they have four pairs of legs with claw-like ends used to hold on in strong currents, other slender ovigerous legs hang below the head which the male uses to carry fertilised eggs.
The unmistakable Columbus crab on the left, a pelagic species identified by Christopher Columbus during his first voyage to the New World. The blue colour hides the animal from predators and prey in the deep ocean. On the right believed to be the same crab in its megalopa larval stage.
About your guide Jason Stonehewer
I am a qualified F.G.A.S.A.nature guide, studying coastal ecology and our fascinating interconnected natural world. From 2012 to 2014 i was lead guide on the Perlemoen Trail, I started my guiding career guiding river rafting trips in 1994 for Felix Unite. In August 2014 I received the mayors award for excellence for setting up a marine kiosk in Pearly Beach and my contribution to environmental awareness. I am chairman of the Pearly Beachconservancy and take part in volunteer environmental educational work for the Vision Foundation lecturing in some of the more remote destinations in Southern Africa.
Nature guiding and studying our amazing inter-coastal marine environment is a dream come true for me and it gives me great joy to share this with others.
The sea swallow is a nudibranch a sea slug that has lost its shell. They float on the surface tension of the ocean hunting blue bottles, the sea swallows defence against predators is to secret toxic chemicals reusing stinging cells derived from their own prey. Washed up by onshore winds along with many other pelagic species we encounter.