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The remains of a possible historic shipwreck has been discovered by Neptune’s Divers and Cruises in Walker Bay, Hermanus. After the initial find a few years ago the site was systematical explored to reveal anchors, chains and other as yet unidentified maritime cultural heritage items.
Neptune Divers earlier this year involved the Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH) Unit of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) who inspected and carried out tests on the site, measuring some 200m² and 20 meters deep in Walker Bay. SAHRA approved Neptune’s application for a permit to undertake a pre-disturbance survey for an unknown wreck in Hermanus. This enabled Neptune to monitor and protect the site and to promote it exclusively as a heritage diving site.
Vanessa Maitland, a maritime archaeologist undertook a magnetometer survey to define the boundaries and map the site. This is ongoing.
Marx Möhr, the owner of Neptune Divers initially found an anchor in July 2017 while testing a new metal detector on a shore dive.
‘It has been a challenge to get to this stage – secret dives, all subject to visibility and weather as well as the fact that our yacht from which we also do diving excursions, Ocean Quest, was not allowed in that part of Walker Bay during the whale season between June and the end of November.
‘After the initial find, my wife Makayla and father Dolf Möhr joined the preliminary exploration until we could involve SAHRA and Vanessa with rewarding results. We hope this new heritage diving site, which we have named Neptune X until a name can be linked to identifiable remains, will lead to interesting historic finds and contribute to Hermanus as an enviable tourist destination.
‘The remains lie at 20 meters on a predominantly sandy reef and it offers an exciting dive to qualified divers. We plan to start excursions to Neptune X in December’ he added.
The world-wide mysteries surrounding shipwrecks are legion and what still lies hidden at Neptune X is no exception. According to the records of SAHRA, there are about 200 shipwrecks identified along the Overberg coastline, dating from the middle to late 1600s.
Makayla has researching some of their finds and says that while it is still too early to positively identify these heritage items to a shipwreck, indications are that the anchors may date from the early to late 1800s
Frieda Lloyd, tourism manager for the Cape Whale Coast, is a representative on the government’s Oceans Economic Working Group which, through Operation Phakisa, focuses on unlocking the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans. She says that developing responsible coastal and marine tourism is a key element of Operation Phakisa and that the discovery and potential of Neptune X could be significant.
‘Experience and authenticity are crucial elements for the growth of sustainable tourism. Neptune X offers the possibly of both and, as a heritage diving site, it could become an important contributor to coastal and marine tourism in the Overberg and beyond,’ she says.
Frieda is also looking at possibilities to unlock the marine experiences offered in Walker Bay. The bay closes for boating annually from June to the end of November.