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Shipwreck Exploration and Salvage


Modern Shipwrecks

Captain Peter Sachs was in charge of numerous diving and salvage operations undertaken from 1979 to 1999. 

The following are some of the more important salvage/diving operations carried out: 

SA Oranjeland (1974)

The German flagged SA Oranjeland, was blown off course onto a reef as she left East London Harbour. Efforts to pull the stricken vessel off the rocks failed so she became a total loss. There was a mixed cargo including copper and 3500 tonnes of high-quality granite on board. Most of the valuable copper cargo was salvaged by a Cape Town-based salvage company that completed its operations in 1980. In the meantime 15 years later the commodity prices of granite reached an all time high. After crunching the numbers it became clear that it would be profitable to savage it. To that end Captain Sachs built a purpose-designed steel twin hull vessel “Plus Ultra” that could handle the 20-tonne granite blocks. In what became one of the biggest salvage operations by divers on a sunken cargo the team recovered 3300 tonnes of granite which was delivered to the original buyers albeit 15 years later. (See gallery).

SS Stuart Star (1937)

This steamship was blown onto the rocks a short distance from the Port of East London. Captain Sachs and his team set to salvage the two bronze propellers and steam condensers of brass and gun metal, lying in shallow water. I was decided to use explosives to cut free the valuable metal. They customized a shaped steel box in which the RDX TNT was placed. This was a military-grade explosive that had cutting characteristics concentrating the blast to a confined area thus lessening the impact on the marine environment.

SS Cariboo (1928)

The Cariboo sank in 39 meters (130ft) of water taking with it a valuable copper cargo, An Italian salvage company retrieved most of it in 1938 but curtailed activities as the prospect of war became a reality. So they left a few hundred tonnes on the bottom. Captain Sachs and his team decided to salvage it. The main obstacle in a diving operation can be depth. Captain Sachs and his team saw the need to invest in a decompression chamber that would not only be a big safety feature but also increase the time a diver could spend working on the bottom.
In spite of the challenges of working in deep water, the salvage divers recovered just under 200 tonnes of the valuable metal.

The Khedive (1910)

The wreck was found on a reef near Cape Morgan. It was carrying a cargo of copper wire and zinc to build a power station in Tanzania. Cape Town-based salvage company Argo approached Captain Sachs with a proposal of doing a joint venture. The two teams worked well together and salvaged about 140 tonnes of miscellaneous non ferrous metals.

Historical Wrecks

  • Nossa Senhora de Atalaia do Penherio (1647)
  • Bennebroek (1713)
  • Longqing Wreck (circa 1570)
  • Boudeuse Cay Wreck (Seychelles Archipelago)
  • The Winterton (Madagascar)
  • Hartwell and Le Muiden (Cape Verde)