The Crew

The crews of the South African Navy showed their courage and skill that night. The sea state was bad, total darkness with a 40 knot south-easterly gale, waves of 3 to 6 metres and a sea temperature of about 11 degrees.

The survivors that made it onto the rafts sang songs and told jokes. Those in the water hung onto anything they could find and remained calm, until the searchlight found them, and they were picked up.

The Tafelberg, her icebreaker reinforced bows heavily damaged by the collision, stayed at sea to take part in the rescue.The President Pretorius and her crew displayed remarkable seamanship. It was an amazing sight to see how the frigate was manoeuvred with such precision to position herself between survivors and the high seas, thereby calming the waves slightly, and then sliding next to the men in the water to pick them up.
SAS President Pretorius at exercise, conducting Wasp helicopter recovery even in bad weather. (Image by Cameron Kirk Kinnear)

The crew of the ‘PP’ scrambled down the netting suspended over the side to help men out of the water, and the sight of some of her crew carrying rifles at the ready served to remind us in the water of the possible presence of sharks.

The survivors were given hot showers to try and remove the fuel they were all covered in, and given food and much needed comradeship by the ‘PP’s crew, and medical attention to those who needed it for abrasions and cuts.

This was also the first time friends were able to find each other, ensure they were still alive, and to start to realise that some of the crew may not have made it…

The submarine Emily Hobhouse passes by a deflated liferaft. Each one had to be checked to ensure no survivors were inside