Posts Tagged ‘museum’

George Moyses – Diamond diver

I met George on one of my walks along the beach soon after I got to McDougalls Bay. He was being interviewed by  Get Away Magazine so I said I would catch up with him on another day. He has become quite famous in the area as he was also recently on SABC 2 in the 1st episode of a  programme called “Shoreline”. It took me a number of attempts to catch up with him but yesterday I was eventually able to sit down and hear his story.

George in front of his house which is right on the waters edge.
George in front of his house.

George, who is 57, is a well spoken friendly guy, who has been living in the area for the past 30 years earning a living as a diver, extracting  diamonds from the sea at various locations along the West Coast. He is passionate about the sea and diving. He is also a keen surfer and windsurfer and enjoys the solitude of living on his own at McDougalls Bay in his small house on the beach.

The house right on the beach front.
The house right on the beach front.

Training at Simonstown.
Training at Simonstown.

He received his diving training while serving in the navy at  Simonstown.

It was near Simonstown that he and a friend salvaged a fishing boat, the Arabian Star, that had sunk without major damage.  They restored, fitted out and renamed her Blues Breaker, then  headed up the West Coast to try and make their fortunes.

Blues Breaker.
Blues Breaker.

I have watched a video that George  made called “Diamond Divers” and can say that you have to be slightly crazy to do that kind of work. It is incredibly dangerous, they loose at least 2 divers annually, very physical and really long hours for generally not much reward. George has been fairly lucky and only had one major accident, right at the beginning of his career, when he was hit in the face by a propeller.

They can of course strike it lucky and have a really good pay day, of maybe R100,000,  but that is an exception, a bit like hitting the lotto. They normally earn about R7,000.00 to R10,000.00 per month. These guys carry all the costs and only receive 50% of what they take out. They can only work when weather and sea conditions are favourable, which might be only 10 days of the month.

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Some underwater photographs of the dredging process.

George no longer works off his boat but  from the shoreline. They use converted tractors to haul all the pipes, pumps and sifters right on to the rocks. In the video you see them working in the gullies as they look for and extract the gravel that contains the diamonds. I would not last an 10 minutes  if I tried to do what they do.

The once proud Blues Breaker is no longer looking to good.
The once proud Blues Breaker is no longer looking too good.

George is a multi talented guy and supplements his income in different ways. He is a keen photographer and videographer  and has produced a video which he sells for R100.00. I bought one of the videos and it has some fascinating footage of what these men go through in order to make a living. Most of the divers seen on the video are not young, average age of 50+ , and must be extremely tough and fit to survive. Many of the younger, experienced, divers have left for the oil rigs where they earn a good wage and work in far better conditions.

Front Entrance to house.
Front entrance to George’s house.

He has converted part of his house into a small museum for which he charges R10.00 a visit and he also makes various articles from driftwood which he sells. He is separated, in a very friendly way, from his wife who lives and works in Port Nolloth and has 3 daughters, the youngest of whom is just about to matriculate.

George with old diving suite.
George with an old diving suite.
Model ship made from scrap wood.
Model ship he made from scrap wood.
Info about the model ship.
Info about the model ship.
George with some of the goods he sells.
George with some of the goods he sells.

I gather from the video interviews and what George says, that there is a lot of uncertainty as to how much longer these divers are going to be able to make a living if things do not change. Right now the only ones making  money  are the mining companies who take 50% off the top with virtually no cost to themselves.

UPDATE ON GEORGE:

This post about George has been one of the most popular and most read so I thought I would post a quick update, thanks to Ludwig Venter, an old school friend who caught up with George and family a few weeks ago. Ludwig sent me some pix so I am posting these for all who might be interested.

Ludwig and George meet again after 40 years.

George and wife Debbie

George with family.

George's cabin which is right on the high water mark.

Another update on George:

George went to his 43rd school class reunion in Senekal recently and his friend Ludwig Venter sent me these photographs to post on this site.

George with a group of old school friends

George with daughter Helen looking at a slide show of his school days.

George after a quick dip in the pool - still looks pretty fit for a 60 year old.

Having a nice cold one.

George checking out all the messages and photos about him on "Gone Fishing"

All the very best for the future George and may you strike the “BIG” one soon.


Port Nolloth Biodiversity Centre

On my first day of walking round Port Nolloth I found the Information Centre which is also part of the Biodiversity Centre in that one woman runs both from the same building. Her name is Alta Kotze and her official title(s) are Tourism Information Officer/Manager Biodiversity Centre. I also found out that she is a singer, composer and song writer trying to make a break into the world of music.

Port Nolloth Biodivrsity Centre

Port Nolloth Biodiversity Centre

I had been in a bit of a rush so made an appointment to have a look round the centre at a later date to take a few photographs of some of the exhibits. I nearly fell over backwards when I arrived back there yesterday and was told that she wanted to sing one of her songs for me using a backing track on her computer.

Alta Kotze the singer.

Alta Kotze the singer.

I think it took an awful lot of guts to do what she did (no ways could I have done that) and to be honest I was really impressed with both her voice and her own composition. I hope that somewhere along the line she gets a break and has a chance to make it doing something she is passionate about.

Alta the Tourism Information Officer.

Alta the Tourism Information Officer.

Skeleton of a Piolet whale

Skeleton of a Pilot whale

Exhibit

Exhibit

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Exhibit

Exhibit

Exhibit

Quite a few of the normal exhibits that use live animals – snakes, chameleons and lizards – are no longer functioning as they have  died. Pity really as the setting for the centre is great but one should really have more displays.

Although not part of the museum I did find this exhibit round the back  in the harbour area.

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The Port Nolloth Locomotive.

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The Port Nolloth Locomotive

Final word – If there is anyone in, or knows someone in, the music industry who might be interested in hearing a demo- tape of Alta  you can contact her on 072-1941947.

Port Nolloth beach front.

Yesterday (23rd) was not so great on the weather front. The sun was shinning but it was cold and a gale force wind blew the whole day. At one stage I was considering taking down my rally tent as I thought it was going to be ripped off the front of my caravan. That kind of wind makes me slightly depressed so I determined to take a drive into Port Nolloth and have a look around.

Port Nolloth was only given that name in 1855 when it was renamed from Robbe Baai (Seals Bay) by Sir Harry Smith. Prior to that it had also been known Aukwatwas (1779) and also as Gawaap. Copper was found in the Namaqualand area and the first shipment of 1 ton was was made from the harbour in 1850 and so the big rush to the area began. It was only in 1957 that Port Nolloth received municipal status.

I started my walk from the northern end of Port Nolloth and the first thing I saw was a really beautiful beach. There are a few houses overlooking the beach but not as many as I would have thought.

The bay to the north of Port Nolloth.

The bay to the north of Port Nolloth.

The coastline round the area is very rugged, as it is all along the West Coast and there have been quite a few big storms in the last year or so. It is known for its foggy weather, has an average rainfall of 20-25mm per annum and the average daytime temperature is a moderate 22ºC and 14ºC at night. As you will see a bit further on those storms caused quite a bit of havoc.

The unique lighthouse.

The unique lighthouse which was established in 1909.

The Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church.

Walk ways above the beach

Walkway above the beach You can see 2 boats that were washed ashore recently.

One of the entrances to the walk way.

One of the entrances to the walkway.

Official opening plaque.

Official opening plaque.

The walkway and beach front development were opened officially on the 8th August 2008.

The old building housing the Museum

The old building housing the History Museum

Old rail carriage in font of thr museum.

An old rail carriage in font of the museum.

Good place for a bite to eat? Love the Vespa on the roof!!

Good place for a bite to eat? Love the Vespa on the roof!!

I have not been out for a slap up meal since I left Cape Town 24 days ago. I think this is where I will go next week some time. One thing this restaurant illustrates is how much bigger in all aspects Port  Nolloth is compared to Alexander Bay. There are far more  bigger and better shops and the population is also about  four times that of Alexander Bay. Most people from the area either come come here or drive all the way to Springbok for their monthly shopping. As I said previously I am amazed by the local Spar Supermarket.

Another popular eating establishment.

Another popular eating establishment.

The Biodiversity Living Museum

The Bio diversity living Museum

You can even take up Karate at the local Do Jo

You can even take up Karate at the local Do Jo

Lastly, just to show you how violent the storms can be, the boat below was washed up to where it now rests on the 16th of June this year. It has not been stripped down so it looks like they may try and re float her on a really high tide. Looking at how deep she has sunk into the sand it might be just wishful thinking.

The Pafuri.

The Pafuri out of Cape Town..

So as you can see  an interesting walk, especially if one goes into the museums and spends a bit of time there. I hope to do a post on combined visits as there are some fascinating artefacts and things to see. I also popped into the De Beers controlled harbour and had a chat to the manager, Deon Lotter, and will do a short post on marine diamond mining.

Pieter the librarian et al

Tuesday 7th I spent virtually the whole day trying to get my act together so that this site could go live on Thursday. I have found it extremely difficult and frustrating to do because of the  slow internet connection I have here. Its been on a par with working, in the good old days, with a 56k modem. To be honest I am lucky to have any kind of data connection as I am 25k’s from Alex Bay and only got a GPRS signal there.

Wednesday 8th arrived and I set off early to meet up with Pieter van Wyk the librarian who was going to give me a tour round some of the interesting parts of Alex Bay. What an amazing young man – a virtual walking encyclopaedia of facts, plant names and history. A  librarian, photographer, writer, museum curator, ornithologist and conservationist and he is only 21 years old!!  He was born, schooled and raised in the area and his family have lived in the Richtersveld since the 1800’s. He has been writing a book for the last 6 years and it is due for publication in September this year.

Pieter van Wyk

Pieter van Wyk

Pieter the Librarian

His biggest passion are the Lichens of the area. There is a huge field of them, now declared a world heritage site and one of the largest collections in the world, that overlooks the town and that is where we started.

Lichen: plant organism made up of a fungus and an alga which grow together on rocks“.

If, like me, you are a total philistine who had never even heard the name before, and would like to find out more then please follow this link. Lichens.

Lichen field

Lichen field

The Lichen field overlooking Alexander Bay in the background

Pieter van Wyk

Pieter van Wyk

Pieter, in the Lichen field, doing what he loves most.

Pieters passion for what he is doing, research, conservation etc is so strong that it becomes infectious. The field is surrounded by a fence but the lock on the gate has been broken and all and sundry have unsupervised access to the plants which then get walked on, driven over or stolen. They can’t survive dust and while we were there about 6 police cars roared through the field, on the way to a shooting range. Even I was upset by that.

Lichen flower

Lichen flower

If I remember correctly this is known as “window of the world”

After spending some time in the field it was off to the Museum which is situated in the security area of the mine and I had to be signed in and a security card issued.

Pieters knowledge of the history of Alexander Bay and surrounds is quite staggering and we spent a good few hours going from section to section of artefacts on display, some of which he had put together himself. He has been appointed by the mine management to look after the museum and do tours but finds it very difficult to do justice to the work as he is employed full time at the Library. This was the 1st time he had been in the museum for 2 months and there was dust everywhere. I felt very privileged to be given the tour all on my own.

Museum display

Museum display

Time was running short as Pieter had to be back at the library by 1pm so we took a quick drive to the restricted boarder crossing into Namibia to get a photo of the longest bridge in South Africa.

Bridge spanning  the Orange River

Bridge spanning the Orange River

Difficult shot to get but also illustrates what the soil and vegetation is like.

On our way back to town we came across some more flamingos and I learnt that the area is also a Ramsar site.

Famingos

Flamingos

My time was up and we said our goodbyes.  I went to the restaurant to have a bite to eat and ponder on all I had heard and seen from this very knowledgeable young man and work out how I was going to try and capture the essence of it all on this blog. I have tried my best.

For more photographs of the day go to pix

If you wished to learn more about what has happened, and is still going on, in the lands claim scenario please go to Link

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