SS Wafra

It’s 42 years to the day – and almost to the minute as this publishes at 1730 CAT – since the oil tanker SS Wafra grounded on a reef off Cape Agulhas after her engine floundered due to a leak in her cooling system.

Almost half of her 472,513 barrel cargo escaped, with some 26,000 tons of oil leaked at the grounding site, of which 6,000 tonnes washed up at Cape Agulhas. A 20-mile (32 km) by 3-mile (4.8 km) oil spill resulted that affected a colony of 1200 African Penguins on Dyer Island near Gansbaai.


The vessel is on fire in this photo because the SA Air Force bombed it in an effort to scuttle it and er… failed:

The ship was refloated and pulled off the reef on 8 March by the German tug Oceanic, but started to break apart. To prevent further oil contamination of the coastline, the larger section was towed 200 miles (320 km) out to sea to the edge of the continental shelf (36°57’S 20°42’E), leaving a 160-kilometre (99 mi) oil slick in her wake. On 10 March 1971 Buccaneer aircraft of the South African Air Force attempted to sink her with AS-30 missiles, but succeeded only in starting a fire. The ship flounded ablaze for two days before a Shackleton aircraft was eventually able to sink it with depth charges in 1,830 metres (6,000 ft) of water.


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