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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/SS Oakburn and MV Boss400

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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay : SS Oakburn and MV Boss400
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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/SS Oakburn and MV Boss400

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The dive site Oakburn and Boss 400 is a recent wreck overlapping a historical wreck, on a shoreline rocky reef in the Karbonkelberg headland area on the Atlantic seaboard of the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.


Aerial view of the dive sites at the Oakburn and Boss 400. (Photo CDS&M)

The site is mainly interesting for the wreck of the Boss 400, and what remains of the Oakburn. The marine life is better represented at other nearby sites.


S33°02.216’ E018°18.573’

The position is unmistakeable (2009) as the Boss is clearly visible above the water for a long distance. The Oakburn is to the suth west of the Boss, almost under its stern, and somewhat deeper.

This site is in a Marine Protected Area (2009). A permit is required.


The "SS Oakburn", a British cargo steamer of 3865 tons, was wrecked in fog on 21st May 1906, on a voyage from New York to Sydney. Two lives were lost. Its cargo included railway lines and equipment, glassware, sewing machines, musical instruments, oil and paper. The Oakburn has pretty much fallen apart, and on 27 June, 1994, the crane barge "Boss 400" broke its towline during a north westerly gale while under tow by the Russian tug Tigr, and ran aground virtually on top of the older wreck. Unsuccessful efforts were made to reconnect the tow and salvage the vessel. The Boss is also starting to break up and it is possible to do some penetrations, but one should be careful. Length of the Boss 400 is about 100m and displacement about 12000 tons.


Maximum depth on the Oakburn is about 22m, mostly shallower. The Boss is considerably shallower.


Granite corestone point with two wrecks. The older Oakburn lies deeper and further to the west, to the stern of the Boss, among moderate to large boulders and outcrops. The wreck is severely broken up and the plates and framing are fairly mangled, though there are a few places a diver can get under them. The recent Boss is largely intact and is still perched high on the rocks, with only part of its upper deck awash. There is a large space under the stern which can be penetrated like a cavern, which is fairly free of snags and is open along a wide area. Other penetrations may be possible in calm weather, but swell causes powerful surge around and through the openings in the stern. The sides are clad with heavy vertical timbers for protection when laying pipes.

Geology: Granite outcrops and boulders of the late Pre-Cambrian Peninsula pluton


The site should preferably only be dived on calm days as it is in an exposed position. There can be a very strong surge through the Boss.

The site is exposed to swell from the west, and protected from wind and chop from the south east. The site is usually at it's best in summer but there may also be occasional opportunities in autumn and early winter.

This is an area which sometimes has upwellings caused by south easterly winds, which result in cold clear water, and may be followed by a plankton bloom, which will reduce visibility again

Get in

The site is only accessible by boat as there are no roads in the area. The site is about 7.4km from Hout Bay harbour.


Colonial ascidian
Gas flame nudibranch
Klipfish and nippled sea fans
Frames of the Oakburn
Wreckage under the hull of the Boss

Marine life

Marine life is typical of the area but not particularly noteworthy. A careful search will reveal quite a lot of colourful corals, sponges and anemones sheltering in crevices.


Historical and recent wrecks. The Boss is largely intact, though it is deteriorating rapidly as it is in the surf zone. Penetration is possible, but can be tricky due to the surge.


(photographic equipment suggestions needed)


No recommendations available at present.

Stay safe


Cold water, Strong surge. Ragged wreckage. Probably a high risk of entrapment in the Boss.


No special skills required for non-penetration dives.


A light will be useful as there are lots of holes and openings to look into.

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