For centuries, ships have come to grief on the unforgiving South African shores and the aftermath has influenced local culture in ways great and small. The Eastern Cape Oral Histories Project aims to record the lost, forgotten and hidden maritime heritage of the Wild Coast.

While some shipwreck sites and survivor stories are famous (the Grosvenor immediately springs to mind), less well known is the significance of these sites to local communities living in those areas today. Building on the work of researchers such as Gillian Vernon and Hazel Crampton, the project seeks to investigate the maritime heritage sites and oral histories of local communities in the Port St. Johns area. The scope of the project stretches beyond the traditional shipwreck to whatever form of maritime and underwater cultural heritage sites local communities consider significant today.

On behalf of the Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, the African Centre for Heritage Activities is undertaking archival research and field work to uncover and share these stories. It is hoped that this project may become a blueprint for SAHRA’s community heritage projects in the future.

Field researcher Lusanda Ngcaweni and her assistant Andisiwe are writing regular updates from the field; they would like you to meet Matholakele Bhobhosane, a descendent of a survivor of the infamous Grosvenor wrecking  http://underwaterheritage.org/2014/03/05/introducing-matholakele-bhobosane/

Over the course of the fieldwork, more sites and stories that are significant to people like Matholakele will come to light. The project will culminate in a community workshop and exhibition in the project area in mid-May.

Follow the project here and on http://underwaterheritage.org/