Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/MV Rockeater
The dive site MV Rockeater is a recent wreck in the Smitswinkel Bay area on the Cape Peninsula side of False Bay, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Information is provided which may assist in planning Recreational and Research Scuba diving at this site, and links to photographs of marine organisms that have been found there.
(reasons to dive at this site)
Name "MFV Rockeater"
The MV Rockeater was built in New Orleans in 1945 as a coastal freighter for the United States navy. The ship was bought by Ocean Science and Engineering (South Africa) in 1964 to be used for marine prospecting. The ship could be positioned with an accuracy of 8 metres using on-board instrumentation and shore based transponders, and could be held in place by four anchors or positioned dynamically by using the twin propellers and thrusters.
Seabed surveys were carried out using acoustic reflection profiling to map sands and gravels over the bedrock, and an airlift could be used to suck up bottom sediments for sorting and grading. The Rockeater was also equipped with a drilling derrick to take core samples. This was cut off before the ship was scuttled and lies next to the wreck on the starboard side. After twenty years of this work the Rockeater was in poor condition and no longer seaworthy. It was planned to use the ship as a naval target, but because of fears that she might sink at her moorings in Simon’s town, it was decided to donate her to the False Bay Conservation Society. The Rockeater was towed to Smitswinkel Bay on 15th December 1972 and scuttled. It took only four minutes to sink.
S34°16.135’ E018°28.855’ (Bow)
S34°16.127’ E018°28.890’ (Stern)
The MV Rockeater is the southernmost of the 5 wrecks in Smitswinkel bay.
This site is in a Marine Protected Area (2009)
This site is only accessible by boat. Usually from the slipway at Miller's Point.
The site is exposed to swell from the south east, and to a certain extent, from the south west. Longer period swell will make conditions on the wrecks uncomfortable or hazardous due to strong surge, but short period waves will just make it uncomfortable on the boat. Visibility is less predictable, and at this time is largely a matter of luck and reports from divers who were in the area recently.
The site is usually at it's best in winter but there are also occasional opportunities at other times of the year, though least often in summer, when the south east wind tends to blow much of the time.
Sand bottom is at about 34m. The main deck is a few metres above this and the superstructure is a few more metres up.
Flat fine white sand.
The wreck lies upright on flat sand at about 34m, with bows to the west. The drilling derrick lies on the sand to the north west of the superstructure, and the helicopter pad has collapsed to port. The structure of Rockeater is basically intact as far as framing goes. Hull plating is still more or less intact, but superstructure plating is heavily wasted and there are big gaps between most frames. There are many openings in the deck and superstructure.
The structure has lost a great deal of strength due to corrosion, and it may be unstable. It will most likely collapse during bad weather, but should be considered a risk in a strong surge. Scorpion fish have been seen on the wrecks, and are well camouflaged. Their spines carry a dangerous venom.
Certification appropriate to the depth is expected. Some level of training or experience in wreck diving is recommended, and penetration should only be attempted by suitably competent divers after reconnaisance and appropriate planning.
(photographic equipment suggestions)
Equipment appropriate for the depth should be used. Nitrox is recommended for those competent to use it. A light is strongly recommended, and penetration should not be attempted without the appropriate equipment and planning. If you are not entirely certain what this would be, you are not competent to do the penetration.
Marine life (and features)
The wreck is too deep for much seaweed, but it is heavily encrusted with invertebrates, some of which are seldom seen aywhere else but the Smits wrecks.
No particular route recommended. Limited but challenging penetrations have been reported.
Views of the site.