Cape Agulhas, located at the very southern tip of Africa itself is home to NSRI Station 30 and its team of dedicated volunteers. Headed up by Shane Kempen the base has various rescue assets. Firstly there is Vodacom Rescuer VII – a 8.5 m RIB and then there is I & J Rescuer II – the 4.7 m RIB as well as a Mitsubishi 4×4 vehicle and a 4×4 Titan tractor, which is used to launch and retrieve the RIB’s.
Agulhas, besides being important in that it is home to Station 30, is of great maritime significance. According to famed writer T. V. Bulpin, “Cape Agulhas is not a dramatic point. A range of hills forms a wall separating the sea from the flat inland. A 12 million candlepower lighthouse and radio beacon stand permanent watch over the end of Africa. The land peters out into a flat and rocky projection which, at a depth of 60 fathoms, continues under the sea as the Agulhas Banks for 250 km before falling steeply into the 1800 fathom depths of the southern ocean. The first lighthouse, dating from 1848, is the second oldest in South Africa”.
The seas around Cape Agulhas are, however, famed not only for their geographical position on the globe but for their unpredictability and ferocity. Although there are many and varying perspectives on the subject the area is argued to be the general dividing line between the Indian and the Atlantic oceans and the fabled mingling area of the Mozambique and Benguela currents.
All these forces of nature coming together at one place, sometimes at the same time, often lead to confused and nasty seas. Many a vessel has foundered there and numerous people of the sea have perished. So it is easy to see why there is such a need for a sea rescue station at that southern location.
Station 30 covers the reach of coastline from Quoin Point located at the West of Agulhas to Infanta, situated in the East. The highest concentration of shipwrecks (many dramatic) in South Africa has been between these two points.
The area is sparsely populated and the nearest towns of any real size are Caledon, Hermanus and Bredasdorp. The closest nearby village is Struisbaai.
It is difficult for stations situated in remote locations to build-up significant permanent rescue crew and to be fully manned. And, perhaps, it is unfair to expect the few who do so to give of their time to serve to be on duty 24x7x365.
Given the above realities, and considering that NSRI had to endeavor to meet the need to have a rescue station operating at Agulhas, NSRI came up with an innovative scheme.
A temporary “relief” system was implemented whereby volunteer crews from other NSRI stations within Region 2 spend weekends at Agulhas on a roster-type basis; thereby allowing the crew of Station 30 to take “time-out.”
Hence the recent relief visit by volunteers from Station 10 (headed up by Station Commander Darren Zimmerman), Simons Town (pic above).
Another Region 2 team, Station 16, (headed up by Station Commander Michael Saunders), Strandfontein has also provided relief crews to assist with this very important task.
We salute Agulhas Station Commander Shane Kempen, and his crew of local volunteers for all the effort that they put into keeping Station 30 functioning and saving lives at sea.
Footnote: The Station 10 visit to Station 30 Augulhas was of very special additional relevance . . . Dave Roberts – a senior Coxswain (pic above) of Station 10 – is a direct descendant of Joseph Clingan (Dave’s Great Grandfather), one of the pioneer lighthouse keepers at Agulhas during earlier times.