|Cape Columbine Lighthouse|
Our next Lighthouse Keeper of interest is Japie Greeff, who has experienced several appointments around the coastline and is currently stationed at
near Paternoster in the . As the sun sets on the days of manned
Lighthouses, Japie, as Senior Lighthouse Keeper, will be one of those last men
to follow the rigid routines demanded of them every day, to ensure that the
Light is turned on at twilight. Cape Province
Japie commenced his lighthouse career at Diaz Point Lighthouse, Luderitz, Namibia, in 1979 and as a matter of historical interest, Diaz Point is named after Bartholomew Diaz, the Portuguese Captain who took shelter in the bay and was first to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in 1487-1488.
|Diaz Point Lighthouse|
The Diaz Point Light overlooks a cold sea, fed by the northerly running Benguela Current bringing nutrients from the Antarctic. With the up-swelling of the rich nutrients along this foggy western coast, it delivers the food that feeds some of the world’s largest shoals of fish. This bounty has attracted a fishing fleet which is based in
As well as the management of the Light and being technical men, their expertise was in demand and they were called on to perform other local duties. On one such day, Japie had an interesting experience . . . .
“I was sent to replace batteries for the channel buoys in the harbour in Luderitz, which is the town approximately 27km from Diaz Point. By the time I had finished the work I had been sent to do, a ‘Transvaaler’ from
had launched his speedboat to go
and catch crayfish. At the Lighthouse, I
told the guy that the sea is rough on the outside as you pass the outside of
the harbour. He just took one look at me
as if to say, ‘You don’t know what you are talking about?’ Johannesburg
I shook my head, thinking a speedboat is only meant for rivers and dams and certainly not for the sea. I went across to see the Harbour Master and told him about this guy, because it is a speedboat and is not made for the sea, but only for dams or rivers, but he told me not to worry, that they knew what they were doing because they had been fishing for many years and were experienced.
I then phoned the Lighthouse Keeper at Diaz Point to be on the lookout for the so-called ‘experienced fishermen.’
The wind was blowing at 25 knots and off they went.
By the time I arrived at the Lighthouse, the speedboat was taking water and was adrift! The Lighthouse Keeper called for assistance from a local fishing vessel to rescue the men, because we did not have Sea Rescue in Luderitz.
Two days after they had been rescued, the ‘Transvaaler’ came to the lighthouse to say ‘Thank you’ for the help they had been given, with a bottle of whiskey.
The Senior Lightkeeper told him,
“If your life was depending on whiskey, then take this bottle with you and get the hell off my station! If you do not listen to what my Keeper told you, then go and drown yourself!”
We never saw or heard from the ‘fisherman’ again!”
Still at Diaz Point, and on a less serious note, Japie also shares this amusing anecdote with us.
“In those early days, we installed our own generator plant as we had no electricity supply and had three four-cylinder, and two two-cylinder
motors. We discovered that some Ruston ,
or better known to us all as ‘Mossies’, were actually breeding in the exhaust
pipes. Every year in the month of
November, we were besieged with black Mossies flying around the Lighthouse! Cape Sparrows
One day we had a visit to the Lighthouse by a student from the
. On sighting
the ‘black birds,’ he became really excited, telling us that he was studying
birds and declared these to be a very rare species! Convinced that he had hit the jackpot, he made
copious notes about these unique birds, to report to his Professor and headed
back to University
of Cape Town . Cape Town
Unbeknown to us at the Lighthouse, arrangements were underfoot and the next thing we knew, the student, his Professor and a film crew were flying up from
The Professor started asking questions, keen to see where the birds were breeding. I took them around to the generator, started up the engine and after two puffs, out flew the black rare birds!
‘This is where they breed,’ I told the Professor.
An annoyed Professor, film crew and a crestfallen student returned to
with some explaining to do! Cape Town
|Japie Greeff, right, and assistant|
A series by Suzanne-Jo Leff Patterson