Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Highfields
The Highfields was a British four-masted steel barque commanded by Capt E.R. Dunham. The vessel was lost on 14 August 1902 after a voyage from Cardiff to Table Bay with a cargo of coal. Survivors reported that she had been in a severe storm off the Cape and had lost most of her canvas. Her decks were awash but she managed to reach Table Bay under small sails. It seems her crew and captain were desperate to find shelter.
The German steamship Kaiser was at anchor just outside the breakwater when the Highfields came out of the dark (just after midnight) and hit her anchor chain. The Highfields briefly lay across her bows before being blown off. The Kaiser was not damaged at all, but the Highfields sank within 2 to 5 minutes of the collision with the loss of 23 crew including the master and second mate.
This site is not in a Marine Protected Area. A permit is not required. The site is mostly within the traffic separation zonw between the main deepwater channel and the inshore traffic zone and the bows of the wreck extend a few metres into the main harbour approaches lane
The name "Highfields" is the name of the shipwreck at this site.
Maximum depth is about 25m. and the top of the wreckage is about 22m.
Visibility will be at its best during or after strong south easterly winds, and may exceed 20m, but will more likely be around 8 to 10m. If the wind stops and the sun shines for a few days, plankton bloom will reduce visibility, and if westerly winds blow, they will usually also result in poor visibility (could be less than a metre on a bad day).
The wreck lies in roughly 24m on low flat rock with small patches of sand and gravel, and is fairly intact but is up-side down so it is mostly hull plating that is visible, Around the sides there are a few places where one can see into or under the hull, and her huge anchors lie just off the bow.
The site is usually at it's best in summer but there may also be occasional opportunities in spring and autumn.
This site is only accessed by boat as it is quite far offshore and at the edge of the shipping lane at the entry to Cape Town harbour. Take care to remain outside of the shipping lane.
The site is about 2.2km from the Oceana Power Boat Club slipway
Inverted steel wreck.
No specific route recommended. It is possinble to circumnavigate the wreck during a dive.
Diving the Highfields is especially tricky as she lies only a few meters west of the entrance channel to the harbour. One needs to inform Cape Town port control of the dive and then devise an ascent system that prevents divers drifting east into the channel on ascent and while on the surface. A shot line placed on the bow (furthest point away from the channel) with its buoy attached to a second line to an anchor placed about 100m further west has proved workable. Another way is for divers to tie a sacrificial ascent line to the wreck which they hold onto during ascent and on the surface. They then let go of the line once the dive boat gets to them. In any event, diving the wreck with a west wind blowing or with an appreciable current from the west is not advisable.
It is essential to be able to find your way back to the shotline, or deploy an upline and DSMB for ascent, as you must avoid getting into the shipping lane, particularly during the ascent, as at that time the boat will not be able to assist if a ship comes through. Do not assume that large ships will be able to avoid your DSMB, even if they see it. Altrnatives for finding the shotline include bottom lines, and effective use of a compass, bearing in mind that the wreck is steel, and will affect accuracy of a nearby compass. Navigation using landmarks may be possible, but this will depend on visibility.
The site is not suitable for entry level divers due to the depth and skills requirements.
DSMB is strongly recommended so that the boat can monitor your position if you must ascend away from the shotline. Jersey upline (disposable, biodegradable line for ascent) recommended to prevent drift if ascending away from shotline.