Encounter our Eastern Cape Info Letter – January 2023


In the January 2023 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter our Eastern Cape Travel Mailer

  • Learn more about the Coelacanth, the living fossil fish

  • Hike Port Elizabeth’s Sacramento Trail

  • An UFO landing site at Rosmead in the Karoo Heartland?

  • Spot the Queen Victoria Profile near Patensie

  • Be surprised at the Great Fish Point Lighthouse on Route 72

If there is something that you would like to see featured in our monthly travel mailer or have any suggestions, please drop us a mail at jonker@fireflyafrica.co.za

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The Coelacanth
The discovery of a living fossil fish

The Coelacanth display in East London Museum

Coelacanths (seel-a-canths) were once known only from fossils and were thought to have gone extinct approximately 65 million years ago during the great extinction in which the dinosaurs disappeared.

In December 1938, Captain Hendrik Goosen of the Irvin & Johnson fishing vessel, Nerine, spotted a huge, bright blue fish of a type he’d never seen before while retrieving his net. He was fishing during a cold water upwelling off the mouth of the Chalumna River, west of East London, – a situation which often revealed unusual specimens that he would generally keep for the curator of the East London Museum, Marjorie Courtney-Latimer. As soon as he docked in East London, the Captain sent for Ms. Courtney-Latimer, who realised immediately that he’d found something important.

Coelacanths are now known to live primarily around the Comoros Islands but also elsewhere along the east African coast and in Indonesian waters. In the Indian Ocean, only one capture (the original one in 1938) is from South Africa and this specimen was long thought to be a stray from the Comoran population. However, resident South African coelacanths have been sighted in deep canyons, initially by divers using mixed gas “rebreathers,” and subsequently by scientists using a submersible.

The story of Marjorie Courtney-Latimer and the first Coelacanth can be found in the East London Museum.

Everything you want to know about the Coelacanth

Hike PE’s Sacramento Trail

The Sacramento Trail from Schoenmakerskop to Sardinia Bay in Port Elizabeth

The Sacramento Trail between Schoenmakerskop and Sardinia Bay is probably the most popular hiking trail in Port Elizabeth. The 8 km trail traverses the 320 ha Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve proclaimed in 1980. The walk starts near the cannon at the west end of Schoenmakerskop and follows the coast to Sardinia Bay, returning via bridle-tracks and a path along the top of the vegetated dunes.

The bronze cannon at the start of the trail points towards the wreck of the Portuguese galleon Sacramento which foundered on 30 June 1647. Of the 72 survivors who reached the beach and set out to walk the 1,300 km back to Mozambique only nine reached Delagoa Bay (Maputo) on 5 January 1648. In 1977 local divers salvaged 40 bronze cannon from the wreck, including the one on display.

From the cannon the trail follows the coastline where numerous freshwater seepages can be seen. At the Sacramento monument can be seen one of two tall white beacons which mark the boundary of the adjacent Sardinia Bay Marine Reserve. From here the trail pass through Cannon Bay and further along the coastline past sheltered gulleys.

Sardinia Bay is a popular bathing beach where you turn around and return to Schoenmakerskop along the inland section of the trail which winds through fynbos.

The trail is suitable for moderately fit persons who are advised to walk in a group, wear stout shoes, take a sun hat and drinking water. Dogs are permitted on the lower (coastline) part of the trail.

Sacramento Trail map
Read more about the Sacramento Trail

An UFO landing site at Rosmead in the Karoo Heartland?

The railway siding village of Rosmead near Middleburg, Eastern Cape, Karoo Heartland. UFO landing site in the Karoo

Rosmead is a small railway village near Middleburg EC but back in the early 1970s it was a thriving settlement that included a busy station, huge fuel storage tanks and a military camp. On the evening of 12 November 1972, a number of locals and soldiers at the camp saw a bright light (some said it was a series of moving red lights) zig-zagging across the Karoo sky. The light reportedly hovered over the school’s newly built tennis court, and then disappear.

Closer investigations the next morning showed a number of scorch marks and holes in the tar of the tennis court. Nearby trees were burnt and died soon after and fragments of tar and rock were later found strewn as far as 200m away. It seems an alien craft could have hovered over Rosmead, landed briefly and then, using its afterburners, simply took off into the dark night again. The official word though is that it never happened. Sounds a bit like the Roswell incident at Area 51 in the USA.

Read about Alien spotting in the Karoo on Karoo Space

The Queen Victoria Profile in the Gamtoos Valley

Queen Victoria Profile in the Gamtoos Valley near Patensie

One of the well known landmarks in the Gamtoos River Valley in the Queen Victoria Profile on the road between Patensie and the Baviaanskloof. The profile is the result of erosion of the sheer cliff and can be seen when driving towards Patensie.

Great Fish Point Lighthouse

The Great Fish Point Lighthouse between Port Alfred and East London on Route 72

At 9 meters high the Great Fish Point Lighthouse between Port Alfred and East London is one of the smallest lighthouses on the South African coastline. It didn’t need to be built very high as it stands 76 meters above sea level and looks out across a dune veld to the coastline. It may seem that the lighthouse is actually far from the coast (800 meters from the shoreline in fact), but the light can be seen 32 nautical miles out to sea and flash on the sea side every 10 seconds.

Although the large ships sail past quite far off these days, back in the 1800’s ships had to be warned about three shallow reefs to the north-east of where the lighthouse is located. These outcrops have taken a number of ships over the years, both before and after the erection of the lighthouse. In 1890 a Lighthouse Commission set up by the Colonial Government recommended that a lighthouse is built on this coast, but after several holdups the light was only completed in 1898.

Where to stay and what to do on Route 72
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