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Seeing dolphins is great; not seeing them is still ok.
MOST times I do see Humpback dolphins from the platform at Alkantstrand.
Admittedly, I spend several hours there, during which time I feel like a tour guide as everyone I meet there has a keen interest in dolphins and since I am involved with those doing scientific research on the beautiful creatures, I do have some knowledge to share.
But when the dolphins are scarce, there is still plenty to for the observant mind to take in.
For a start, it is at the entrance to one of Africa’s busiest ports, with a continual stream of inward and outbound vessels and in the case of the latter, the helicopter transfer of the marine pilot from the ship takes place a few hundred metres ahead.
In the distance, at the outer anchorage, lies a long line of ships waiting to offload and load various commodities, mostly coal from RBCT – the largest single coal terminal in the world.
Below the queue of vessels, where the anchors scrape, is the most amazing, colourful underwater seascape, in many ways resembling the Great Barrier Reef (we have photos).
A pity it is far too deep for even scuba divers to enjoy.
Besides the large craft, a flotilla of small boats, jet skis, yachts and paddle skiers (apparently with death wishes) move in and out of the harbour.
All along the pier one sees anglers, some of whom leap along the dolosse like mountain goats. I keep the camera handy, because one day….
When the shad and garrick are running the scene is near to hysterical. When they aren’t, fishermen reminisce about the old days when fish were plentiful.
Look left and right and you may check surfers and body boarders who just love tidal wave conditions, not to mention the city’s lifeguards who do their swimming training regardless, in seas that would deter anyone other than the NSRI, who relish the challenge of a gale-driven storm.
Looking towards the shoreline, the unfinished Port Control Tower and the almost kaput lighthouse make fine conversation pieces, as does the pipeline pouring dredge spoil back onto the denuded beach – not to mention the ever-decreasing strip of coastal dune as global warming and rising ocean levels take their toll.
Then there’s the wreck of the Newark Castle, barely visible at low tide off the small pier and marked by a white buoy.
Dr JC van der Walt tells the story well, how the British steamship stranded and sank in the mouth of the uMhlathuze lagoon during the night of 12 March, 1908.
A lifeboat capsised in the surf and three people drowned, including the wife of Major Boyes who, thinking he was rescuing his wife, actually saved the life of a beautiful French governess.
The skeletal remains of Mrs Boyes still lie buried under the sand at Newark Beach.
However, seeing just a solitary Humpback dolphin still beats all the rest.
And if I don’t, the tragedy of the shark nets’ dolphin by-catch and reasons they should be permanently lifted are lectures I simply must give from my soap box platform.