Fisherman from the old days in Hermanus – Henry Minnaar
Henry Minnaar was born in Hermanus in1906. Like his grandfather and father, he became a fisherman at a young age and experienced all the joys and hardships of those years. There were no boat engines or echofinders and when there was no wind, they had to row 20 km to the fishing waters and 20 km back. Dangers abounded. Whales chased them at times. They had to use their own acumen to know where to find fish. According to Henry there was a Agreen@ smell in the water when sardines ran. It was fantastic to see a school of sardines around the boat, big fish swimming with sardines in their mouths. But that was the era of fish in abundance in the bay.
Boats weighed between one and one and a half tons and had to be manhandled. Sixteen men had to carry a boat up the hard. Henry was reputed to have said that a fisherman’s life was slavery and that the hard work cost many their lives. Henry stuck to fishing for fourteen years, but then found work in the local telephone exchange. He still went to sea in his time free and at times he only slept two hours a night.
In his career Henry was skipper on three boats. One belonged to Peter McFarlane, Voorspoed, which he bought from a Malay in the Strand. The Malay warned him not to take the boat to sea on a Friday, the Malay’s holy day. The two other boats were Britannia of Oom Lewies (Poppies) Swart and Princess May of Koos Groenewald.
Henry married Helma Nolte from Wellington. Their three children are Melvyn, a well-known journalist, Andre working in Hermanus and Karen-Ann. They lived in Marine Drive, near the Ocean View, for many years. When Henry died in 1980, aged 72, one of the colourful characters was lost to the Hermanus fishing community. Helma still lives in Fynbos Park Retirement Village.
Blogger: Jeanette du Toit Information S.J. du Toit Photo: Old Harbour Museum
Old Hotels in Hermanus – The Royal Hotel,
built by Allengenski family in 1900 in Main Road, opposite Market Square. There were several owners over the years: the Silkes, Abrahams and others – The Royal was a happy meeting place of the fishermen and sportsmen, and hosted parties for various occasions. In the De Wets Huis Photographic Museum is a photo of a Jewish wedding that took place in 1904. The wedding guests and the bridal group were photographed in front of the Royal Hotel. This old landmark went up in flames in 1981.
Kentucky Fried Chicken and the adjacent parking lot occupy those premises.
Photo: Hermanus Old Harbour Museum
Information: S.J. du Toit
Fish Preparations on the old market square with the Royal Hotel in the back.
Southern Right – Logging
This is when the whale is merely lying in the water, with its tail hanging down. Part of the head and back are exposed.
Southern Right Whale – Lob tailing
This is an activity in which the animal sticks its tail out of the water, swings it around and then slaps it onto the water’s surface causing a shower of spray. This produces a loud sound which is believed to be a means of communication between whales or a warning of rival whales, sharks, annoyance or mild threat. This may be done repeatedly over long periods.
Southern Right Whale – Sailing (Tail)
Occasionally whales lift their tails clear of water for long periods. The tail is held aloft for an extended period of time, like a giant black butterfly. They turn their tales to get the advantage of the wind, much like a sail in the wind. This could mean catching wind to ‘sail’ through the water or a way of cooling down. Another view is that this represents a form of temperature control for the body, either through solar radiation or evaporative cooling as the blood vessels in the tail form a counter current system much like a radiator. A third option is that the whale is feeding on organisms close to the sea-floor.
Did you know … Cruising speed 0.5-4km/hr (0.25-22 knots)? Top speed possibly 14km/hr (9 knots). In coastal waters most dives are between 4 and 8 minutes in duration; in Open Ocean dives may last longer.
Hermanus Old Harbour Museum
The Old Harbour Open-Air Museum is a provincial heritage site. It is unique in that apparently it is one of only two fishing harbours in the world that has been conserved in tact. Remnants of the vibrant fishing industry are seen everywhere. It is the axis around which the fishing village of Hermanus developed.
The stone and concrete harbour consist of a sea wall, a breakwater, a few historic fishing boats along concrete slopes, the turn stone, gutting tables, brine tanks, “bokkom” stands and reconstructed fishing shacks.
Information and photo: Old Harbour Museum
Southern Right Whale – Spy hopping
This term was known by the whalers as whales lift their heads and part of their bodies out of the water vertically to give them a 360 degree view of the world above the water and may be that the whale is observing its surroundings as they are most curious.
Hermanus is a beautiful beachside town situated about an hours drive from Cape Town International Airport. Hermanus is the land based whale watching capital of the world. Hermanus is mostly famous for being inhabited by Southern Right Whales every year between June and December, and the Great White Sharks at Gansbaai all year round. Famous for its champagne air, long stretches of beach, mild climate, rich floral kingdom and abundance of birdlife. Hermanus, the heart of the Cape Whale Coast, becomes a hive of activity with hustle and bustle every year during the last week of September, which is the official Hermanus Whale Festival week. Hermanus also has a special character that you are bound to meet if you visit during the Whale Season, and that is the famous Whale Crier, who carried a kelp (seaweed) horn and tells everyone where the whales are. Hermanus, the whale capital of the world. Where to stay, where to eat and what to do.
Southern Right Whale – Breaching
Periodically a whale may thrust three-quarters or more of its body out of the water, pivot onto its side and back, and fall back with an enormous slash into the sea. This jumping technically known as “breaching”’ frequently occurs several times in succession. This behavior might be a form of communication or indication of male prowess, generally during mating. Or it might be to get rid of whale lice or perhaps the activity assists in the moulting process and maybe they do it for the pure fun of it. It is usually done in sets of between four and six. When performed by young calves, for instance, it seems that the activity is one of sheer exuberance. This is undoubtedly the most spectacular of all whale behaviour.
Southern Right Whales visit Hermanus in the heart of the Cape Whale Coast every year during May – December