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South Africa: Thomas T. Tucker trail

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Thomas T. Tucker trail | South Africa | Africa

[Visited: August 2009]

My first try to get to Olifantsbos was late in a very rainy, windy and cold afternoon, when it was already getting dark. Walking any trail was not really an option, but somehow I was attracted to this corner of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, and returned the next day, with much improved weather conditions. I parked the car, and started walking the trail. It soon led me to the beach, and after some rock-hopping, I started walking some soft, white sand in which my feet sank pretty deep. The waves were as wild as they can get at this side of the nature reserve, and they filled they air with that pleasant smell of sea and salt. Birds were screaming all around me, the strong wind was blowing white foam over the beach ahead of me, and I started to like this trail more and more as I walked on.

Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Thomas T. Tucker shipwreck slowly eaten away by the waves

The beach got wider as I continued walking south, and I started scanning the sea in a distance to see if I could see the wreck of the Thomas T. Tucker. My attention got distracted by the many birds here - I saw a big rock right off the powerful surf of the Atlantic completely covered by black cormorants; when one of them decided to take off, the others followed, resulting in a big cloud of black birds taking to the sky. And then, suddenly, I was very surprised to see a silhouette quite close to me - right on the beach. That silhouette unmistakably was a shipwreck. I had arrived at the wreck of the Thomas T. Tucker. The wreck is still quite intact, and you can easily recognize the bigger parts of the ship. Scattered around the beach, I also saw pieces of the ship, slowly rusting away and being hammered continuously by the strong Atlantic waves.

Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Typical landscape of the Sirkelslvlei trail

The history of the Thomas T. Tucker goes back to World War II, when the Germans intensively patrolled these shores of Africa, trying to make supply ships like the Thomas T. Tucker go dangerously close to the treacherous coastline of the southern tip of the continent. The Thomas T. Tucker had just been built in September 1942 when it was sent to Cairo from New Orleans on its maiden voyage, loaded with supplies for the troops fighting Rommel. Named after a 19th century American physician and politician, the ship ran aground close to Olifantsbos in a dense fog, but also because the compass turned out to be erratic. No one perished - the shipwreck was left on the beach, and was split into several parts by the relentless sea. After seeing this wreck, I continued along the beach, and soon found the much smaller wreck of the Nolloth, a ship that ran aground in 1965. From here, the turn-off for the inland part of the trail was close by - and I was very happy having chosen to follow the path. It led me up the hills off the beach, through some very nice countryside with flowers and typical plants, all the way back to the starting point of the trail.

Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): The first part of the Thomas T. Tucker trail follows the beach
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): The Nolloth, ran aground on the beach in 1965
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): USS Thomas T. Tucker is slowly decaying, and a resting place for the many birds around
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Wind constantly shaping and redefining the beach near the wreck of USS Thomas T. Tucker
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Beach near the wreck of the USS Thomas T. Tucker
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Group of black cormorants near the shipwreck of Thomas T. Tucker
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Waves rolling on the beach near the Thomas T. Tucker wreck
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Part of the beach at the Thomas T. Tucker trail
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Thomas T. Tucker stretch over the beach
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Beach and Atlantic Ocean at the Thomas T. Tucker trail
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Atlantic Ocean waves crushing on the shore of the Thomas T. Tucker trail
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Landscape of the Sirkelsvlei trail, connected to the Thomas T. Tucker trail
Picture of Thomas T. Tucker trail (South Africa): Plant regularly found near the Thomas T. Tucker trail

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