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The Gustav Adolf was a Norwegian sailship (a three master) who did general trade all over the world. The Norwegian crew consisted of Captain Geruldsen, first officer Nielsen and eight other seamen. During the winter of 1902 (end May) the Gustav Adolf, with one passenger, Mr Perkins and a load of 14,000 Jarrah-wood logs, intended for the South African Railways, started its journey from Australia to Cape Town.

After Port Elizabeth was passed, a massive 14-hour storm broke loose! The water levels increased tremendously and waves of 5.7 metres were slammed inside the poor ship. The only thing preventing the ship from sinking at that moment was the heavy load of wood that was onboard the ship. Battling in this heavy storm, the ship was greatly damaged after a while and was driven approximately 240 kilometres in to the deep sea.

For three days long the crew tried pumping the water out of the ship. Hopelessly the ship was drifted further and further away until eventually... it ended up at the mouth of the Palmiet River in Kleinmond. This historic day was June 25th, 1902.

The amazed crew soon realized that their ship will be drifted towards the rocks (west of the river mouth). The first of only two lifeboats they had, was hoisted down into the sea. An unexpected huge wave surprised the crew and the lifeboat was swallowed up by the sea. Six of the other crew men then successfully hoisted the second lifeboat into the water too while they watched while the others was loaded from the Gustav Adolf into the rough drifting lifeboats. With one thunderous bang the waves kept on slamming the (now empty) Gustav Adolf against the rocks and within 10 minutes it was a total wreck.

Near to them, on the sand beach at the Palmiet mouth, a group of 5 young men was enjoying a nice secluded vacation away from everything. They were staying in a zinkhouse that belonged to one of first families that arrived in the area, the Albertyn family. It was in total shock that these young men watched the Gustav Adolf nightmare taking place right in front of their very eyes. The recovered and struggling two lifeboats had a hectic time fighting the massive waves trying to get to the sand beach. The innovative young men watching from the beach quickly concocted a plan by making flags from white cloth and sticks indicating directions to the crew on board.

Furiously they ran with these white flags all along the rocks towards a ‘safer’ harbour called Jongensklip (1.6 kilometres from Palmiet mouth) and the now called Kleinmond Harbour. On arrival here, landing was also not possible and they had to turn again…all the way back to the Palmiet mouth. The smaller of the two lifeboats tried tormenting the strong waves in an attempt to reach the beach. Once again all was in vain when an angry wave shattered the little boat to pieces. Three of the five on board this little lifeboat perished.

On land, the young men tried their utmost to save the two crew members remaining from this boat. Pieces of wood, attached to some fishing line were thrown to them by the young men. First Officer Nielsen(one of the two remaining) was successful in reaching dry land but Captain Geruldsen (second person) was too weak and his deceased body was washed out by the currents 30 minutes later. The crew on the other lifeboat watched what was happening to the fellow crewmen and in pure astonishment stayed floating around in the dark night, waiting for the sea to calm down. By night time they still only had the one saved crew member (First Officer Nielsen) safely on land, six others in the lifeboat out at sea and four who’s lives were taken by the stormy, angry seas.

The six onboard the remaining lifeboat fell asleep from total exhaustion during the night. Weird enough, by the time they awoke, their lifeboat was placed in the exact spot where the Gustav Adolf was slammed to pieces! They all reached the beach safely and spend the rest of the night warming up around a fire (which they made with matches which were still dry after this storm).

By break of daylight, the Palmiet beach was filled with many leftover pieces of the Gustav Adolf wreck as well as pieces of the Jarrah-wood logs that were on the initial ship load. After 15 hours of restful sleep the surviving seamen buried the bodies of Captain Geruldsen and passenger Perkins, which by then also washed ashore. The Jarrah-wood logs on the beach were used by them to erect two crosses at these two men’s burial grounds. Still today these two crosses are still standing and the two men still rests there, where the rest of the bodies... never was recovered anywhere.

Source: Hangklip-Kleinmond Tourism