Tag: Durban Harbour

Estrella Do Mar

Another interesting vessel that came to Durban was the small passenger ship/ferry Estrella Do Mar. She was usually up in Mozambique and Mombasa as far as I recall, and only headed South for repairs or dry docking. We managed a visit to her when she was still at the repair berths and she was a real surprise with her dormitory accommodation and forward lounge. The owner, Alex Costazos, was very friendly and he hinted that when the charter ended she may end up in South Africa doing short cruises.

We never saw her for a few years until we got to Durban one day and she was alongside. It was 1994, and we went on board and there was Alex once again, and his plan was almost ready to happen.

She was built as “Santa Maria de la Caridad” by Union Naval de Levante, Valencia, Spain, for Compañía Trasmediterránea. Delivered March 1967. Lpp 59.50 m, width 11 m, draught 5.18 m, 1199 BRT. She served Balearics and Canary Islands traffic until 1982 and was sold in 1984 to Pyrgi Chios Shipping Co., Greece, together with “Santa Maria de la Paz” and “Isla de Menorca”. After that her history becomes clouded until she turned up in Durban for a refit and mechanical work.

She did however, get a new lease of life and was sold to a Danish/Filipino company and rebuilt into a cruise ship for island hopping expeditions around the Philippine Archipelago. Called the Coco Explorer No 1, it was far from luxurious but lots of fun.

In 2005 she was replaced by a larger, more luxurious ship called the Coco Explorer No.2, another former Spanish ferry that is best known for its stint as the Greek Islands cruise ship Arcadia. The former Estrella do Mar was thus retired and sent to China for scrapping in the mid 2000’s

Additional info available at Simplon Postcards, further information on her career, and photographs courtesy of Jonathan Boonzaier.

© DRW 2004-2018. Page recreated 14/12/2008, moved to blog 02/03/2015

Updated: 09/01/2018 — 19:47

MV Royal Zulu

The long laid up Royal Zulu was resident in Durban harbour for many years. Originally brought across to Durban she was destined to become THE party ship, operating short cruises and with a disco, gambling, partying and all manner of what were nefarious activities to the previous government.

Royal Zulu in happier days

Royal Zulu in happier days

Alas, she fell foul of the licensing authorities and ruffled quite a few feathers. She was promptly arrested after very little service and ended up alongside a disused quay at the far end of the container berth where she slowly decayed for many years. She was eventually joined by the dormant RA Leigh, and the pair of them rusted away in silence.

Built as Santa Maria de la Nieves, she was one of 3 sister ships (Santa Maria de la Candelaria, Santa Maria de la Nieves, Santa Maria del Pino ) built in 1967 by Union Naval de Levante, Valencia, for inter-island services in the Canary Islands and the Balearics for Trasmediterránea of Spain.

Royal Zulu as built

Royal Zulu as built

Eventually she was sold for breaking up and we heard a story that one of her lifeboats eventually found its way to Johannesburg. In April 1987  we got on board her and it was a very strange feeling to be board this dead ship. Everything was as it was left, and I climbed the mast and poked around inside her, but we could not get below decks or onto the bridge, I always looked out for her I was in Durban, because realistically she was a part of Durban.

More information on Trasmediterránea man be found at Simplon Postcards

© DRW 2004-2018. Recreated 02/04/2015

Updated: 09/01/2018 — 19:47

MV Giovanna S

We visited the Giovanna S (IMO: 6610065) in 1987, and she is an interesting ship. Built in 1966 as the bulk carrier Citadel in Sweden, she was also able to carry vehicles which were loaded through doors in her sides.  After a number of changes of ownership she was acquired by MSC in 1984 and converted to carry containers. She was broken up in Alang in 1992. This weekend was a real disaster as Durban experienced the worst floods in years, our visit to the ship was very brief but I do recall we went on board one of the deck gantry cranes and the one party member got to drive it briefly.

Giovanna S official stamp

Giovanna S official stamp



Quayside view



© DRW 2015 – 2018. Created 21/02/2015

Updated: 09/01/2018 — 07:40

The Lady in White

During and after World War 2, hundreds of ships sailed from or arrived in Durban harbour en route to or from various theatres of war, their decks often packed with soldiers of the UDF and the Commonwealth. Below decks crew would be busy at their tasks and often patients would line the wards of the hospital ships. It must have been an emotional moment for everybody concerned.

Singing for her servicemen  was our own “Vera Lyn” who was popularly known as “The Lady In White”. The story goes that in April 1940, troops on board a troop ship goaded Perla Sielde Gibson, a soprano, to sing. “Hey Ma, sing us a song… Ma, come on, be a sport. Ma, give us Land of Hope and Glory Ma…” Perla was not perturbed and cupping her hands to her mouth broke into song. There was silence and then the troops joined in, their voices being heard above the hustle and bustle of wartime Durban. It was the start of a ritual which she would continue doing as long as there were troopships to sing to.

As the troopships undocked she would start singing patriotic songs, often with the aid of a megaphone. Then, as the ship turned in the harbour basin she would move to the North Pier, waiting for it to appear. As it passed slowly through the channel, she would sing, her voice carrying across the water to the men on board, saying her goodbyes in song, singing till long after the ship had crossed the bar and was out of earshot. It was a pledge by Perla to meet or send off each troopship. Dressed in white and wearing a white hat, she sang patriotic songs for more than 1000 troopships and over 350 hospital ships.

There is no doubt that this 50 year old mother of three made a difference as is testified by so many soldiers, sailor’s and airmen who were on board these vessels who remember her with fondness, her musical renditions  heard on board those ships, causing many a lump in many throats.  She never allowed the grief from losing one of her own sons to stop her singing to the troops. She passed away in 1971, just before her 83rd birthday, official recognition coming slowly.  A stone cairn with a bronze plaque was completed in June 0f 1972 on the North Pier where she would have stood, singing to her boys. It was donated by the men of the Royal Navy and reads:

Royal Navy Memorial

Royal Navy Memorial

To the Memory of Perla Gibson

“The Lady in White”

Who sang to countless thousands of

British Commonwealth and Allied Servicemen

As they passed through Durban over the years

1940 to 1971

This tablet was presented by

The Officers and Men of the Royal Navy

When the North Pier was redeveloped the plinth was moved to a temporary spot near the Ilanga newspaper offices until a decision could be made about its future. Although, given the nature of the subject it should realistically be sited in the harbour.  At the time of this update (03/06/2015) the plinth is situated at  29°52’17.99″S, 31° 2’55.87″E although it is not in view of the street.

In 1995 a statue to Perla was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II, it was commissioned in 1995 by Sam Morley who wrote the book “Durban’s Lady in White“. The statue was created by local artist Barbara Siedle, who is the niece of the ‘Perla Siedle Gbson, and it was placed in a prominent place next to the Emtateni Centre, which was part of the Ocean Terminal Building on the T-Jetty.  Unfortunately access to the memorial was almost impossible due to the security in the harbour.

The Perla Siedle Gibson Mobile Library was also founded to  serve British seamen on all ship and a 5 room unit at the Highway Hospice was created with funds raised in her memory.  The boarding establishment at Glenwood High School was named Gibson House after Roy and its colour is white in her honour.

The memory of Perla Siedle Gibson left an indelible mark on those servicemen who experienced her performance, and her dedication to her task was legendary, she did not miss a ship!

In June 2016 it was announced that the statue would be relocated to the Port Natal Maritime Museum as it was no longer accessible at the current location next to the former Ocean Terminal. (http://bereamail.co.za/85430/statue-to-be-relocated/). The move was finally made at the end of September 2016 and the statue was relocated next to the Britannia Room, but still within the harbour area. (http://bereamail.co.za/93965/lady-in-white-moves-into-new-home).

The statue as at 17/06/2017 

Further reading: Gibson, P.S., The Lady in White, Purnell & Sons, 1964.
Durban’s Lady in White. An autobiography.  Perla Siedle Gibson. Aedificamus Press, 1991.
Special thanks to Allan Jackson for the picture of Perla’s statue. Please visit Fad for more Facts about Durban. Also thanks to Shelly Baker for the images of the plinth and the statue.

© DRW 1997-2018. Updated 28/07/2011. Moved to blog 26/08/2014, updated 18/01/2015, 03/06/2015, 20/06/2016

Updated: 08/01/2018 — 07:22
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