“Then and now” in the Greater St Francis Region – #3

Immediately south of the Cape St Francis  lighthouse in the spring of 2003. Note the abundance of species: pink fluffy beach indigos, yellow beach buttons, white needle everlastings and grey shrubs of dune chafflower in the background. Photo: Richard Cowling.

The same view, earlier this year (2020). The species-rich and endangered coastal fynbos has been overwhelmed by bietou, a likely response to the increase in trampling by humans over the past 17 years. Bietou, which is indigenous to the Cape coast, is highly invasive along the coast of south-eastern Australia where it overtops the indigenous vegetation. Researchers there have shown that bietou produces chemicals that suppress other species. Should FOSTER start be controlling bietou in certain areas of the reserves? Photo: Timm Hoffman and Richard Cowling

Our famous lighthouse

Many will have seen this wonderful history on our lighthouse on Facebook recently but for those who don’t use Facebook you can read it here.

On July 4th 1878, the lamp of Cape St. Francis lighthouse was lit for the first time. Since that day it has sent forth its beam of light to guide mariners along a stretch of coast that has claimed numerous shipwrecks
Site for a lighthouse
According to a report of the Coast Lighthouse Commission dated 1 December 1871, Captain Skead accompanied by Captain Perry R.N. and Lieut. Taylor R.N. set out from Port Elizabeth on 21 November 1871 to inspect Cape St. Francis and vicinity for the purpose of selecting a site for the erection of a lighthouse. Travelling in a “hired van” the party stopped for the night at Van Stadens and arrived at Humansdorp on the 23rd where they were met by the Civil Commissioner, who assisted them to reach the beach near Cape St. Francis. An ox-wagon loaded with tents and camp gear was sent ahead. {Below are a few excerpts from the report:]
.. after a rough journey over a very indifferent road, some of which went over precipitous sand hills, we arrived at Mostert’s farm house, a small and poor homestead about 2 1/2 miles to the North West of Seal Point, just north of the scene of the wreck of H. M.S. Osprey, where we awaited the arrival of the ox-wagon with the tents at 6 p.m., when we encamped for the night.
On Sunday the 26th we started for the hills at the back of Seal Point, visiting the most prominent, and making theodolite observations on the way and after spending several hours in looking for a suitable site, we decided upon a spot about 250 – 300 yards N 20 W magnetic from the pitch of Seal Point which commands a clear view of the coast to the westward and as far eastward as N 82 30′ E magnetic.
This spot which is distinguished by a large isolated rock about 20 feet high, with a small pool of water at its base, is marked by a pole about 15 feet high, wedged firmly into a crevice at its summit and it is here that the Commission would recommend the erection of a lighthouse … the spot we have selected, though only a few feet above the sea level, affords the widest range for the exhibition of a light.
There is an abundance of rock in the vicinity for building purposes but we fear it is too hard to be easily worked. There is also an inexhaustible stock of shells for lime and the beach to the westward is strewn with much timber for burning it. There is fresh water a few yards of the selected site, but as Mr Robinson, the Chief Inspector of Public Works, is shortly to visit the locality we leave this part of the report in his hands.
The party returned to Port Elizabeth on the 28th November having been away for 7 days.
Building of the lighthouse
Construction of the lighthouse commenced on 17 March 1876 when Joseph Flack, a clerk of works employed in the Public Works Department of the Cape Colonial Government, set out the works. He was not destined to see the lighthouse completed. Flack died at Seal Point on 14 November 1876 and he is buried in the cemetery in Humansdorp.
The circular lighthouse structure is the tallest masonry tower on the South African coast. It is 28 metres in height and the focal plane of the light is 36 metres above sea level giving it a range of 28 sea miles. The stone for the tower was blasted from the reefs some 200 metres east of the site and it was cut and dressed to size and shape on the spot.
The original optic was a second order dioptric apparatus comprising 8 lenses with upper and lower refracting prisms and provided a single white flash every 20 seconds. It was equipped with a 3 wick burner and produced a light beam with an intensity of 15 000 candles. In May 1906 the flash rate was accelerated to one flash every 5 seconds and a petroleum vapour burner installed, resulting in the candlepower being increased to 120 000 candles. The candlepower was further increased to 2 750 000 candles in 1931 when a 4 kw incandescent electric lamp replaced the mantle burner. Power was provided by diesel electric generators and an electrically operated fog signal installed at the same time. The present illuminant is a 1,5 kw lamp giving the light a range of 28 sea miles.
Until 1959 the revolving light was driven by clockwork, actuated by a set of weights suspended from a chain. The motion was regulated by a governor fitted with a brake and weighted lever attachment to keep the apparatus in revolution whilst the weights were heaved up manually. This had to be done every 4 hours by the duty lightkeeper. The old mechanism has fortunately been preserved as a curiosity of days gone by. The cost of the lighthouse tower was R23 688 and that of the original dioptric apparatus R9 954. A radio beacon was established at the lighthouse in 1964

The most isolated station on the mainland

Although Cape St. Francis lighthouse is only 30 km from Humansdorp it was, until recently, the most isolated attended station situated on the mainland. Not so long ago the 5 km journey from Goedgeloof on the Krom River to Seal Point over the sand dunes and along the beach had to be done on horseback and by ox-wagon and took 3 hours.
Only in 1957 was the ox-wagon replaced by a four-wheel drive vehicle which followed the same route. Although it was quicker by jeep, the trip on the ox-wagon was more comfortable Several of the lightkeepers owned horses. They were able to travel by car as far as Mostert’s farm on Goedgeloof. From there they proceeded on horseback to the lighthouse. When the new houses for the staff were completed in 1948, one of the old quarters was converted into stables. In 1964 the gravel road which ended on Goedgeloof, was extended to Seal Point and the trip from Humansdorp to the lighthouse could be done comfortably in half an hour.
The lighthouse is manned by a senior lightkeeper and two lightkeepers. In recent years a township has been developed near the lighthouse which is no longer the lonely outpost it used to be. In the foreseeable future Cape St. Francis will, no doubt, also succumb to automation and when that day dawns the resident staff and their families will say farewell to the peace and quiet of Seal Point. The lighthouse was declared a National Monument on 11 May 1984.

Summary of Shipwrecks

One of the earliest known sailing vessels that ran aground near this Cape was the D. F. I. Company ship De Noord on 16 January 1690, returning from Port Natal. On 3 November 1840 the steamship Hope, a coaster which had close ties with Port Elizabeth, came to grief here. In 1850 the L’Agile and Queen of the West went ashore on the same day, 16 June 1850, followed by the Spy in 1851, La Guste in 1858, Lady Head in 1859, Bosphorus and H.M.S. Osprey in 1867, Jason and De Nederlandsche Vlag in 1869, Niagara in 1870 and Mitford in 1875. From the time the lighthouse was established in 1878 until this day, ten ships were wrecked near Cape St Francis: The Roma and Freeman Clerk in 1883, British Duke in 1888, Derby in 1895, Suffolk in 1900, Cromatyshire in 1901, Cape Recife in 1929, Lyngenfjord and Panaghia in 1938 and President Reitz in 1947.


Big Wave Surfer Frank Solomon Opens Parley Ocean School with Parley for the Oceans and Sentinel Ocean Alliance

Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. Sentinel Ocean Alliance founded by Frank Solomon in 2017 to create ocean-based opportunities and environmental education for the youth of South Africa, is pleased to announce the partnership with Parley for the Oceans for the opening of a new Parley Ocean School.

Parley Ocean School, Hout Bay

Parley Ocean School, Hout Bay ©Nick Muzik

“We started with the Waves for Change program here in Hout Bay,” said Solomon. “It started off with a few kids, and now we have 5 or 6 permanent employees, and a couple of hundred kids a week kids doing the program.”

Parley Ocean School takes an immersive approach to environmental education with the goal of inspiring marine conservation and empowering its next generation of leaders: Ocean Guardians. Parley Ocean School youth programs simplify complex marine threats through engaging materials developed with a global network of educators.

Frank Solomon

Frank Solomon © Nick Muzik

“Parley is committed to inspire, educate, and empower the next generation of Ocean Guardians. We are grateful for the partnership with Sentinel Ocean Alliance, and the strong network of community in Cape Town that will create a true impact with our Ocean School,” said Mike Long – Director of Operations, Parley for the Oceans. “By providing access to the tools and equipment necessary to learn and immerse these future leaders of our planet, and the skills and inspiration to act on their learnings, to help them use their power to create change.”

There was more to do, though. “Before long we embarked on establishing the Hout Bay Life Saving Club,” said Solomon, chatting about the early development of the Sentinel Ocean Alliance. “The club went on to win an award as the Best Development Club in the Western Cape and created 10 jobs for people who were previously unemployed.” 

The Parley Ocean School would then be the third step in educating the youth on ocean-based opportunities and environmental education.

“After these first two programs, they would come up the stairs to the Parley Ocean School and learn more about the ocean and why we need to protect it,” said Solomon.

Where it all goes down, Hout Bay. ©Nick Muzik

Where it all goes down, Hout Bay. ©Nick Muzik


“Some of the people who go through the Waves For Change program and go onto possibly become lifeguards still don’t understand pollution and waste management and looking after the environment. This is the central pillar of the Parley Ocean School.”

“The Parley Ocean School in Hout Bay is a critical step as Parley continues its programs and initiatives throughout South Africa.” – Mike Long, Director of Operations, Parley for the Oceans

Solomon has his eyes set further than just those people graduating from his learn to surf and lifeguard academy.        

“It’s not just for surfers and lifeguards though,” said Solomon.

“I am going to approach local restaurants and offer to get their staff to go through a program as well. This will help them also understand more about pollution and littering and what these things do the environment.”

The main Sentinel Ocean Alliance site is on Hout Bay Beach, on the Chapman’s Peak side. There are two containers and the Parley Ocean School will be the third forty-foot container.  

“There are a lot of opportunities in the ocean economy,” said Solomon. “If you’re not from an ocean environment, maybe from Hangberg or from a different township, you might not know how to access the ocean economy. The biggest hurdle we have found thus far is actually swimming. So the school is firstly teaching every kid to swim, to give them a possible entry into the ocean economy.’ 

In Solomon’s world, an ideal situation pans out something like this. A young kid, from a township, joins the Sentinel Ocean Alliance as a nipper, around 5 to 7 years old. He or she learns to swim with the Sentinel Ocean Alliance, then enters the Waves For Change program and learns to surf and gains confidence in the ocean.

They could then become lifeguards, and get a job as a lifeguard anywhere in the world. At Waves For Change, they can become a surf instructor. This person could then go on to get classes at the Parley Ocean School to learn further about the ocean and the environment from the school. This whole program is all about that kid.”  

The Parley Ocean School is set to open by the end of November.

For more information on the Sentinel Ocean Alliance and the Parley Ocean School please visit: https://sentineloceanalliance.org/


St. Francis Bay; Cape St. Francis, Oyster Bay

Kindly take note that the electricity supply will be interrupted on the date and time indicated below. This interruption is necessary for new installation work and planned maintenance by ESKOM.

30 November 2020, 11am – 3pm

7 December 2020, 11am – 3pm

All electrical appliances must be treated as live during this shutdown period.

The shutdown is permitted to incrementing weather.

Your co-operation is highly appreciated.

Power outages in St Francis


110 Disaster Management Volunteers appointed for the festive season

110 Disaster Management Volunteers have been appointed by Kouga Municipality to assist curb the spread of the Coronavirus in the municipal hotspots.

With the festive season rapidly looming and the second wave of the coronavirus underway, Kouga Municipality has deployed extra hands to assist in the control and management of the coronavirus in the municipality.

High risk areas have been identified and the young men and women have been stationed on the streets of Humansdorp, Jeffreys Bay and Patensie armed with sanitizers and fresh masks.

“They have a role and responsibility to ensure that the community adheres to the Covid-19 rules and regulations,” said the Mayor, Horatio Hendricks.

“They are there to monitor social distancing, ensure that masks are worn correctly, sanitize at shop entrances & taxis as well as the monitor confirmed positive cases,” he said.

“The main objective is to flatten the curve, therefore residents and holiday makers are requested to adhere to the guidance of the Disaster Management Volunteers to #keepkougasafe.”

Kouga Disaster Volunteers