As you drive up to the Cape Recife lighthouse on the southern tip of Algoa Bay in Port Elizabeth, you might well find yourself in a swirl of mist. You might also experience that deliciously creepy feeling of being momentarily lost in time, with only the swinging beam of a lighthouse to guide your way.
The zebra-striped Cape Recife lighthouse warns passing ships of the dangers of the equally romantically named Thunderbolt Reef, which has claimed many victims over generations of southern African seafaring. The deadly spine of rocks is named after the HMS Thunderbolt, a steam-driven man o’ war that ran onto the reef on a fine day in 1847. There was hardly a cloud in the sky, and certainly no fog or mist. The Thunderbolt was refloated and beached in Algoa Bay. She was, however, beyond repair. Her timbers were sold to a Mr JO Smith for just more than 100 pounds sterling. The locals thought he’d been had, and immediately dubbed the purchase ‘Smith’s Folly’, according to travel writer Lawrence Green in South African Beachcomber. Smith, it seems, had the last laugh. He sold the timbers on to house builders in Port Elizabeth and made a good profit. So when you do a heritage walk of the City and you pass some of those lovely old Victorian homes, you might well be seeing little bits of the HMS Thunderbolt.
The Cape Recife lighthouse was built in 1851, and over the decades has served its purpose. However, it did not deter some rather determined sea captains from beaching their vessels around Algoa Bay. A certain Captain Nimmo beached his freighter, the Strathblane, after striking a mysterious pinnacle of rock out at sea. After his men landed safely, Nimmo calmly had his bath, dressed up and disembarked. He took the next Cape cart to Port Elizabeth, where he reported the unfortunate incident. And just before World War I was declared in 1914, the German steamer Itzahoe appeared out of nowhere 1 night, heading straight for the lighthouse at speed. The shocked light-keepers resorted to yelling and waving their arms at the vessel, which continued straight onto the rocks nearby.
The Cape Recife lighthouse itself carries some tragic memories. Sometime in the mid-1900s, a fight broke out between three squabbling light-keepers up on a hoisted scaffolding, and two fell to their deaths. These days, the lighthouse is part of the Cape Recife Nature Reserve and welcomes visitors by day ... if they can make it through the mist.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Early lighthouse lanterns were mostly fuelled by sheep-tail fat and paraffin before ‘going electric’.
• No lighthouse is the same, there are 3 distinctive ways to distinguish lighthouses and where you are. 1. Lighthouses are painted different colours and designs to make them daymarks. 2. Each lighthouse also flashes a different sequence of light for the exact same reason. 3. Lastly it also creates a sound that is distinctive in the case of mist when the lighthouse or the light isn’t visible.
•Another interesting story is that the area was renowned for poachers looking for abalone. One day after a poacher was arrested other poachers had a “braai” in the reserve. One of them (intoxicated) took a shot at the lighthouse and shot out one of the glass panels in the light. It was too expensive to repair so the authorities put in a panel and the coded signal of the light had to be changed to accommodate the missing panel.
• Algoa Bay has 4 lighthouses, the other three are situated on Bird Island (still operational) and The Donkin Reserve (open for tourists), with the 3rd having been used to replace the Donkin Reserve Lightouse. It can be seen as one drives, in a Westerly direction, out of Port Elizabeth on the N2. The name comes from Deal in Kent, England, from where many Settlers originated.
• An interesting point to note here is this lighthouse has a red window and using this and the beacon found a short distance away you can work out the location of Thunderbolt Reef in the ocean.
Cape Recife Lighthouse
Bird Island Lighthouse
Donkin Reserve Lighthouse
The Deal SOS Light - replaced the Donkin Light
The reserve is also home to SANCCOB that looks after the Endangered African Penguin's of Algoa Bay - The last stronghold of this species in the world.
Entrance permits available from Pine Lodge Resort located at entrance to Cape Recife Nature Reserve. Entrance only with permit, zero tolerance for diving thus no entry with diving equipment.
Price of permits : Weekly @ R68.00 per vehicle, annual (July - end June of each year) @ R344 - reduced to half price from 1 February of each year.
Entrance for purpose of visiting SANCCOB is gratis / free provided proof of visit is produced on exit from the Reserve. Best times to visit 08h00 - 16H00. Visible security in Reserve during daylight hours.
To qualify for this cache you will need to take a picture of yourself with your finger touching the top of the Lighthouse from the coordinates given. (a face is not required in the photo)
I placed the cache here as I have grown fond of this area and the protection they do for the African Penguin, thus as an added request, not compulsory, please visit and support the sanctuary. photos of this would also be great!
Virtual Reward - 2017/2018
This Virtual Cache is part of a limited release of Virtuals created between August 24, 2017 and August 24, 2018. Only 4,000 cache owners were given the opportunity to hide a Virtual Cache. Learn more about Virtual Rewards on the Geocaching Blog.