29-Jun-2003 -- Realising that we were going to be at the coast for a diving weekend, colleague Roland Elferink and I discovered that nearby confluence 30S 31E was unvisited. We contacted a local dive operator and they recommended Neville and Bryan Hart and their boat Dive@5ive as capable providers of transport for the visit.
After three days of great diving on Aliwal Shoal we headed up to Durban from Scottburgh. We had arranged to meet up with Neville and Bryan on Vetchies Beach at the Durban Underwater Club (DUC). After loading our various cameras and GPS on board, we pushed the rubber duck into the Indian Ocean and set off.
We had hardly cleared the harbour entrance when it became evident that the Harts were more than just a bit curious as to exactly what our motives for visiting this location were. The fact that the Confluence was close to an area marked "Restricted" on their chart helped to fuel the fires of suspicion. I was not sure whether they were relieved or disappointed when they heard our story about the objectives of Confluence.org. Maybe a speculated mid-ocean meeting with a submarine would have been more exciting.
To reach the Confluence we travelled southeast along the Bluff, past the old whaling station (now a military base), past Anstey's Beach with the Cooper Lighthouse and on to Isipingo. Just past a large cutting in the coastal dune we started heading further out to sea and towards the Confluence.
One of the interesting landmarks (seamarks?) was the oil tanker moored to the offshore pipeline mooring. An area of 2 km around this mooring was designated "Restricted" on the chart. This tanker mooring allows the oil to be pumped directly from the ship to the refineries situated behind the shore dune without the ship going into the harbour at Durban. It is rumoured that the original reason why the tanker mooring was built was so that tankers breaking the economic sanctions during the Apartheid era could do so "out of view". Fortunately the Confluence was 2.3 km from the mooring, so we did not have to break any rules.
We had two Garmin eTrex GPS on board. One Neville, our skipper, used to steer us to the Confluence, and the other I used to take pictures of. This is when I discovered that a small boat, on a choppy ocean, in a 18 knot wind, made for very difficult photography. Especially of a tiny readout on a small handheld GPS. It took three trips over the Confluence (and about 10 pictures) before I felt confident that I had a record of our position. Later study showed that two pictures could be used.
Besides the tanker at the "restricted" mooring, the other interesting feature that we noticed was the busy air traffic coming and going at Durban International Airport, which was just behind the shore dune west of our position. We could also clearly see a white radar dome that probably had something to do with the airport. East of us was the open Indian Ocean. As we were about 4 km offshore, most landmarks and details were quite small.
Once we felt that we had sufficient records of our visit, our skipper turned the boat into the Northeaster and headed us back to Durban. The total distance travelled by boat was 39 km. The grounding of the boat on the shore was uneventful, and after a brief chat, Roland and I started our journey back to Johannesburg, about 600 km away.