Photo Essay: Namibian Shipwrecks

The Skeleton Coast of Namibia is littered not only with the carcasses of long-deal animals, but also of hundreds of ships that met their demise on the sandy shores.

It’s the graveyard of out-of-luck sailors and sea captains whose ships lie in shallow waters off some of the world’s harshest terrain. It’s harsh but beautiful.

Check out these eerie shipwrecks on Namibia’s spooky Skeleton Coast.

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An inexorable force

Cold water of the Benguela current collides with dry, warm, air of the Namib Desert and the resulting cold, dense fog extends out to the sea. The wind and currents combine to produce a force pushing inexorably towards shore. These conditions led seafarers to christen this seemingly inhospitable stretch of coastline the Skeleton Coast.

Skeletons laid bare

One visitor to the Skeleton Coast described his impressions of a shipwreck: “Exploring the shoreline, I came to understand – it was not only shipwrecks that lined our beach, but also the bones of many a whale and seal.”

Thousands of shipwrecks

Namibia has several thousand shipwrecks along its 976-mile (1579-kilometer) coastline. Roaring winds, strong ocean currents and fog are mostly responsible for their fate.

Many are completely destroyed by the sun and salty sea air, but a few are visible and can be seen up close.

The Suiderkus (1976)

A relatively modern fishing trawler, the Suiderkus ran aground near Möwe Bay on her maiden voyage despite a highly sophisticated navigational system. After a few months most of the ship had disintegrated but a large portion of the hull survived.

It’s one of the most visible and relatively accessible wrecks along the coast. The hull is home to cormorants, and it’s a popular subject for photographers.

The Dunedin Star (1942)

The Dunedin Star left Liverpool carrying ammunition and supplies for Allied forces during World War II. On board were 21 passengers trying to escape war-torn London. The ship hit an underwater obstacle and was grounded 500 meters offshore, stranding passengers and crew on the Skeleton Coast.

Rescue efforts were doomed. A tugboat ran aground, and a plane sent to drop supplies for the survivors crashed into the sea. The tugboat and the warplane became added casualties to the many wrecks of the spooky Skeleton Coast and are both visible today, along with the Dunedin Star.

namibia shipwreck

The wreck of the Edouard Bohlen, Namibia (Courtesy of

The Eduard Bohlen (1907)

This may be the best-known shipwreck in Namibia if not in the world, according to Africa Safari Co. That’s mainly because of where it is — the Eduard Bohlen appears to be grounded in mid-desert, about 500 meters (1640 feet) from the ocean.

This German cargo ship ran aground on its way to Cape Town from Swakopmund in 1907. Years later, the coastline changed and the desert began to encroach on the ocean. Once stranded in the ocean, the wreck slowly began what appeared to be a trek inland. It’s a favorite site for history fans and wreck enthusiasts.

 Most of the coast is a national park

Although the entire coastline of Namibia was formerly called The Skeleton Coast, Nambia refers to it today as Skeleton Coast National Park, according to The park stretches from the Kunene River in the north about 500 kilometers (310 miles) to the Ugab River in the south, offering protection to about a third of Namibia’s coastline.

Wrecks have owners too

So many wrecks, so little time

A shipwreck on Namibia's Skeleton Coast (Shutterstock)

A shipwreck on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast (Shutterstock)

Shipwreck on Namibia's Skeleton Coast (Shutterstock)

Shipwreck on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast (Shutterstock)

skeleton coast wreck

Shipwreck on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast (Shutterstock)

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