HMS Birkenhead Memorial 2017

A beautiful day for a commemoration...

Written by Jax, February 25 2017

HMS Birkenhead Memorial 2017

Guide Summary and Photographs

Our first trip of the day took us slightly off course of our normal route and back to 1852, to the sinking of the HMS Birkenhead. Tomorrow, on the 26th of February 2017, we mark the 165th anniversary of this iconic shipwreck, famous for having been the first ever ship to implement the “Women and children fist rule” out at sea.

The HMS Birkenhead was travelling from Simon’s Town to the Eastern Cape when it hit an uncharted rock just off of Danger Point (34°38′42″S 19°17′9″E) at around 2am. The Captain had been travelling as close to shore as possible in an effort to reach their destination at the earliest possible date, in order to deploy soldiers at the 8th Xhosa war. Once the ship began to sink, the Captain ordered that the Men should stand back and let the women and children board the life rafts first. Approximately 400 men died that day, leaving a legacy that is now practiced internationally.

With the above in mind, Dream Cather and our sister vessel, Slashfin, set out towards Danger Point this morning in order to have our annual Birkenhead Commemoration. It was an absolutely stunning morning in the bay with a rainbow forming over Danger point just as we reached the area, making the proceedings all the more special. Birkenhead Rock is easily identifiable by the wave which breaks just above it on days where the sea is a little more up and down. We stopped here and after having heard the words of the mayor, began the Kelp Wreath laying ceremony. These wreaths are made by our International Marine Volunteers out of sea bamboo and old Fynbos, they are then released into the ocean to commemorate the lives of those brave soldiers who lost their lives here, all those years ago.

This is always a very powerful moment which provides some time to reflect not only on the tragedy of the Birkenhead but also the rich history of our sleepy little fishing village. After having laid the wreaths and released the flares, we made our way around Danger Point towards Gansbaai Harbour where we were then shuttled back to the Great White House for some much needed coffee and scones.

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