‘Recording the time as 12.05 am and date as 4 August, musician Moss Hills added calmly: “so I guess we’re going down”.’
In August 1991, excited holiday-makers boarded the Oceanos at East London for the trip of a lifetime. Despite treacherous weather, the captain ordered the ship to set sail for Durban. And so began the ill-fated voyage.
Hurricane force winds and giant rogue waves aggravated the hostile storm. Soon the ship started taking water. Panicked senior crew members scrambled into lifeboats leaving the ship’s evacuation to the on-board entertainers. At one point, a musician manned the bridge, at another, a magician.
Women and children clambered aboard lifeboats which were launched into terrifying seas, leaving their husbands behind, unsure if they would see each other again. After all the operational lifeboats had been utilised, 221 passengers and junior crew were left stranded on the rapidly sinking ship.
During this catastrophe the South African Air Force embarked on their biggest air rescue ever, with helicopter crews and Navy divers risking everything to evacuate the remaining passengers.
In Against All Odds, maritime lawyer Andrew Pike, who was part of the legal investigation into the Oceanos’ sinking, recreates the compelling drama and extraordinary heroism of the greatest maritime rescue in South African history.
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