Daily Event for January 8, 2014

The Dutch passenger/cargo ship Klipfontein was built at NV Machinefabriek & Scheepswerf P. Smit Jr.
Rotterdam, Netherlands in 1939 for NV Vereenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaart Maatschappij (United Netherlands Shipping Company) in The Hague. The unfortunate timing of her construction meant that she would be destine for war service of some kind. Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, but the Klipfontein was at an American port at the time. The ship was seized under the Ship Requisition Act of June 6, 1941 and taken up as a transport for the U.S. War Shipping Administration.

She continued to serve throughout the war and the aftermath and was returned to her owners in Feb. of 1946. She was refitted and placed on the route she was designed for, Netherlands to Africa. She must have been a fine and sturdy vessel to have survived transport duty and then sail for an additional seven years on such long voyages.

On her last voyage the 10,000 ship sailed from Cape Town for Beira, Mozambique via Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). She made it only about 190 miles when on January 8, 1953 at 1320 she suddenly ran onto a submerged obstacle and started to sink. They were not far from the Zavora lighthouse and only 4 or 5 miles off the coast of Mozambique near the village of Unconge. It was obvious she would founder and so the ship was abandoned. Apparently in an orderly fashion and without panic.

Less than an hour after the ship struck, a British liner, Bloemfontein Castle (Master J. A. F. Ferguson) of the Union Castle Line responded to her distress calls. She arrived by 1400 and made short order of collecting the survivors in the lifeboats. It is recorded that all were on board the British ship before Klipfontein took her final plunge at 1600. The passengers and crew numbered about 234, not one of them was lost thanks to the crews of both ships.

It is not known what caused the loss, but it is thought that she hit a shipwreck from the Second World War. The passengers and crew lost most all of their possessions, but were cared for when they reached Baira by the company. News of the loss somehow reached the streets of Beira and was passed on to a man who was going to meet his wife and two children who were due in on the ship. When he asked a local cab driver what time the ship would arrive he was told out of hand "She is not due in sir. The Klipfontein has sunk". The reaction of the man was not reported.

The following month the master of Bloemfontein Castle and some of his crew were given gifts by the managing director of the Holland-Afrika Line in a ceremony at the King George V Dock in London. He praised them for the rescue and said the gifts were a gesture of gratitude to the whole of the ship's company.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

Location of the loss of Klipfontein.
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