You might see the Eduard Bohlen pushing through a calm sea if you look carefully. But it is sand that laps against her sides, not water. Her back is broken, and her stern lifts high above the shifting dunes. She lies 400 meters from the shore and is rusting away.
The Eduard Bohlen
The shipbuilder Blohm & Voss still operates out of Hamburg, Germany. The shipbuilder specializes in steel-hulled ships, the most famous of which was the Second World War battleship, Bismarck.
The Eduard Bohen was a more modest project. She was launched in 1890 as a cargo vessel that also carried passengers. At 2,272 laden tons and with a length of 94 meters, she was ideal for coastal work and eventually regularly ferried cargo and passengers between Swakopmund and Table Bay in Namibia but then a colony known as German Southwest Africa.
The Skeleton Coast
The Skeleton Coast is bleak land that is now a national park. Here the desert meets the sea, and the sand pushes the sea back. Its forbidding name refers to the bones of whales and seals that the whaling industry dumped on the beaches. These have been joined by the bones of animals that have died in this unforgiving land. Portuguese sailors long had a different, even more evocative, name for this long stretch of coast – The Gates of Hell.
The Final Voyage
The Eduard Bohlen was on its usual run from Swakopmund to Table Bay, but, on September 5, 1909, she was due to offload equipment for diamond diggers near Conception Bay. Thick fog often rolls over the coastal waters, and this day was no different.
The ship ran aground on a sandbank some 100 meters offshore. The crew unloaded some cargo and equipment to give the ship more buoyancy, then a ship called the Otavi tried to tow the Eduard Bohlen back to safer waters. In vain, the sandbank would not let her go.
Sand quickly built up around the wreck until, at low tide, it was possible to walk out to her. The ship was abandoned, and finally, the sand surrounded the ship and left her high and dry.
The Eduard Bohlen Today
There the Eduard Bohen still sits, half-buried in the sand. Sometimes, jackals use her as a shelter from the wind and scorching sun. She has some curious visitors who come to see her, but mostly she is left alone and will eventually fade into the sands.
There are stories that the skeletons of the drowned crew still lie around the rusting hulk. Romantic, perhaps, but not true. No one died in the accident as there was plenty of time to rescue the crew and unload all the equipment and cargo.
If you want to visit the wreck of the Eduard Bohlen, you should go soon. She won’t last much longer. Still, this treacherous coast will probably claim more victims.