%

If you would like to advertise on our site, please contact Adrian for info.

BBRA header image

An article written by Sven Krohn in the Cape Argus – 14 November 1970

If you have been down to the little bay behind Stony Point near Betty’s Bay, you will have seen the old hulk of the Una and the crumbling masonry that was once part of the Hangklip Whaling Station.

Stony Point was selected as a site for a whaling station by Mr. A. Berntsen and his son of Larvik, Norway – experts in the whaling industry.

They were employed by the Southern Cross Whaling Company Limited, which had taken 60 acres of land at Stony Point on lease from Mr. John George Walsh for R600 per annum.

The buildings and machinery were erected by the Berntsen s in 1912,   Water was obtained from a reservoir on the mountain through two miles of piping and whaling operations started in 1913.

These buildings were made of wood and corrugated iron with concrete foundations.   They stood for eighteen years in spite of the south-easter.

Stony Bay was considered a good anchorage.

Heavy moorings were laid down after a diver had examined the sea bed and a preliminary inspection had been made by the government survey ship.

There is a letter in the Cape Town Museum dated April 25, 1914, signed by F. Cook, managing director of the Southern Cross Whaling Co. Ltd., Whaling Station, Cook’s Harbour, Cape Hangklip.

Mr. Cook must have had great hopes when he named it Cook’s Harbour.   Unfortunately, this romantic named did not stick, probably because the harbour was never safe from the heavy south-westerly swells.

At low tide you can see the engine of a small vessel standing out above the kelp near the slipway.   No one seems to know anything about this wreck.

Mr. (Boi) Jacobus Niemand, who was born in 1885 at Kleinmond, told me that it had been there for years.   Was it one of Mr. Cook’s whalers or could it tell a story even older than the whaling station?

Cook’s Harbour isn’t considered safe today, but in 1913 the Southern Cross, a whaler of 172 tons, used to tie up to a mooring buoy well inside Stony Point.   This mooring buoy was removed before 1925 and was never used again, all vessels going to a raft moored much farther out.

A pier was built near the entrance to the slipway so that cargo could be discharged and unloaded using a raft, hauled by steam winch, between the pier and the ship.   The S.S. Clara was used to bring supplies round from Cape Town.

During that first season in 1913, the whaler Blink (125 gross tons) and the Southern Cross brought in 179 whales.   In June, 1915, either due to the war or for economic reasons, the Southern Cross Whaling Company was liquidated and the Hangklip Whaling Station was bought by Irvin and Johnson in 1817.

In 1920 Mr. John West became caretaker of the deserted station, where he lived with his wife.   Their daughter went to school in Kleinmond, staying with friends there during the term.

The nearest neighbours were Mr. and Mrs. Hvarnes, who lived four miles away near Blesberg, and the Groenewalds, who lived at the Blomhuis, nine miles away towards the Palmiet River.

To visit Kleinmond, about fourteen miles away, meant going by horse and cart, then by boat across the Palmiet River and finishing the journey on foot or in a car, if you were lucky.

Miss West later married Mr. Johannessen who came to Hangklip Whaling Station from Norway in 1925.   Today they live in Stellenbosch.

Mr. Sorvaag, another whale man from Hangklip, now lives in a house high above Camps Bay.   ‘I sometimes see a blow from here’, he said with a reminiscent smile as he spoke to me of those old days he looked out over the sea through his window.

The Price of whale oil dropped after the war and did not recover until 1925, when Hangklip Whaling Station was re-opened.   A new slipway and breakwater were built.   Five Norwegians were brought in to run the station among then Mr. Johannessen, the oil cooper.   The factory was enlarged and new plant was installed.

A new pier with a concrete pillar supporting it was constructed farther out from the slipway (the pillar remained standing until four days after the Ceres earthquake, when it fell into the sea).

The Whales were brought to a raft anchored well out, from which they were hauled into the slipway by winch, the rope being taken to the raft by rowing boat.   Hard work for the boatman when a good catch was brought in and a brought sea was running.

Two old Q ships (the submarine decoy mystery ships of the 1914/18 war), the Kridalkey and the Kilfinora, were bought from the navy and fitted with tanks, the oil being pumped out to them along a pipeline supported by empty drums.

No figures of whales caught at Hangklip are available, but we know that the total catch from the Cape offshore whaling stations was 2 235 in 1926 and fell to 1 342 in 1930, in spite of more and more catchers being used.

Eight whalers worked from Stony Bay.   These were coal-burning and went to Saldanha Bay for bunkers.   Later a sailing ship with an auxiliary engine, the Sound of Jura, carried coal from Table Bay and anchored off Simonstown where the whalers could bunker.

In 1930 the price of whale oil dropped to R15 per ton and this, coupled with the scarcity of whales, caused Hangklip Whaling Station to be closed down.

The buildings and machinery were dismantled and taken to Donkergat.   The large boiler being towed round broke loose and landed up on Muizenburg beach.