Shipwreck Carcasses Strewn Around the Cape of Good Hope

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Image: Dillon Marsh

Not much is left of this wreck.

Although the so-called Cape of Storms was not the southernmost tip of Africa Dias thought it was – in fact, it’s Cape Agulhas, which is 96 miles southeast – he nevertheless correctly deduced that sailing around it would provide a route to India. So it was that a few years later, in 1497, Vasco da Gama sailed out of Lisbon and into the history books as the first European ever to travel by sea to India.


Image: Dillon Marsh

The swirling mist or sea spray around these rocks gives this picture an eerie feel.

The Cape Peninsula is buffeted by giant cold swells and strong winds from Antarctica, which clash with the South African anticyclone as well as the strong, warm Agulhas current of the Indian Ocean. As testament to the perilous nature of these conditions is a long list of ships that have failed to negotiate this treacherous coastline. Bartolomeu Dias himself perished near the Cape when his own ship and three others sank during a massive storm in 1500. No trace of the vessels has ever been found.

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Image: Dillon Marsh

A close-up of dangerous rocks

Sailors are a superstitious bunch; and as a result of all the destruction it has caused, the Cape of Good Hope has its own creepy legends. For one, it is said that famous phantom ship the Flying Dutchman sails these waters. Legend has it that the ship is manned by the ghosts of men who committed a terrible crime and are doomed to sail here forever. According to literary great Sir Walter Scott, to see the ship “is considered by the mariners as the worst of all possible omens.” More mundane accounts suggest that the ship is some kind of mirage or other optical illusion.

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