20 Jan 2023
Namibia’s coastline of 1,570 km is remarkable uniform with only three major bays (Lüderitz, Sandwich Harbour and Walvis Bay) and a few rocky outcrops and promontories. One such outcrop, Rocky Point, is the most prominent landmark between Möwe Bay and the Kunene River 250 km to the north.
Over the years, a privileged few have visited Rocky Point: nature conservation officials, scientists, anglers, police officers and military personnel. Nowadays it is accessible to clients of tour operators with concessions in the area.
Rocky Point made world headlines during the massive rescue operation that was launched after the Dunedin Star ran aground in 1942. It then sunk into obscurity for more than three decades until a group of Angolan refugees crossed at the mouth of the Kunene River in 1975.
But there is much more to this remote outpost along the northern Skeleton Coast. With his well-known dogged determination to track down sources to interview and spending countless hours poring over archival material, well-known conservationist and author Peter Bridgeford provides a fascinating account of the history of Rocky Point in his latest book, Rocky Point Skeleton Coast – Namibia.
The book is a follow-up to an article Peter Bridgeford wrote for the 2012 Journal of the Scientific Society of Namibia. Peter worked for four years at Ugab Gate and Möwe Bay in the Skeleton Coast Park and visited Rocky Point on several occasions.
The book is divided into four sections: Early Exploration, Exploration during the German Colonial Period, Exploration after World War I and More Adventures on the Skeleton Coast. During his research, Peter delved up fascinating accounts of little-known snippets of Rocky Point’s history that has never been published before.
The isolation of Rocky Point made it the ideal destination for clandestine meetings that were never reported in the media. Two such meetings between former South African Prime Minister P. W. Botha and UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi were held at Rocky Point in 1984 and 1987. Peter obtained the information and never-before published photographs of the 1987 meeting from the private collection of the late Dr Tux Scholtz who was present at the meeting.
There’s also the fascinating story of the pioneering SWA Safaris overland tour which included Rocky Point way back in 1959. There are also interesting accounts of the rescue of castaways, shipwrecks, disappearing aircraft and the trials and tribulations of visitors getting stuck and vehicle breakdowns. One fascinating account relates how Hannes Bartsch and Frans Schuster drove from the Government Garage in Windhoek with a replacement engine for a Ford 250F which had broken down at Cape Frio, 170 km north of Rocky Point. It took them just two hours to remove the broken engine and replace it with the new engine. It’s hard to imagine such efficiency today!
The book is also a testimony to the tenacity and ingenuity of the many early conservation officials who passed through this inhospitable area. The book is illustrated with 70 mainly black-and-white and some colour photographs – including many previously unpublished photographs.
Rocky Point Skeleton Coast – Namibia makes for easy reading as you don’t have to read it from front cover to back cover as you can simply look at the Contents and choose what you want to read next. It is published by Kuiseb Publishers and is on sale at the Namibia Scientific Society and leading booksellers.
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