Sandwich Harbor was surveyed by the Royal Navy, which rejected it as a port. But fishermen and whalers used the harbor because it had a fresh water lagoon. It still has a lagoon but it is now brackish. The terrain has changed over the past 50 years. South Africa put dams on the Orange River, which empties into the Atlantic south of Sandwich Harbor. The river used to deposit sand on a delta. That sand moved with winds and currents and replenished the sand bars at Sandwich Harbor. With the dams that sand isn’t coming. Some years the area loses 50 meters (160 feet) of shoreline to the sea. In parts of the harbor the sea cuts into the dunes.
There was a settlement here that lived off of fishing and providing fresh water to other boats. Between the World Wars the community got a sand dredge from the Netherlands to create an artificial island in the lagoon for birds to nest. The idea was to supplement the town’s income with guano. That didn’t work because jackals could cross over to the islands and eat the bird eggs. No nesting, no guano.
The town died out and in the 60s the South African government moved out the last residents in preparation for the creation of the national park. You can still see the tops of houses that have been mostly covered by shifting dunes.
From on top of the dunes you can see the harbor and lagoon.
The winds have uncovered shallow graves. Some have been disturbed by jackals. According to Herman they are most likely graves of natives, although one has the broken remains of old German beer bottles.
North of us is the skeleton coast, not because of the human skeletons but because of the large number of shipwrecks (and beached whales.) The area has a lot of fog and tricky currents. My map shows a wreck at the south end of Sandwich Harbor but from a high dune I could not see it. Herman says wrecks this far south do not last because of the active surf that breaks them up or shifting sands that cover them up.
Here are some pictures of the area that didn’t make it into the first post. To learn about life in the desert click here.
into my last post.