MY LIFE IN SALDANHA – ERIK WILSNACH
Eric Wilsnach was born in Langebaan on the 3rd of October 1937. When I arrived at his home he was busy building a ship in his garage, a hobby that keeps him busy and earns a little money in his old age. Each ship takes him approximately 3 months to build and to date he has already completed more than 50 of these projects.
He invites me into his home and shows some of his projects. Firstly a trawler, the MISPAH, which has sentimental value to him as he worked on this trawler for many many years.
Next, he shows me a Whale Catcher. The ‘Swartberg’(Black Mountain) on which is own father worked for many years. Like is Dad, Eric followed in the footsteps of his father when he too became a fisherman. His father worked at the Donkergat Whale Station and Eric recalls rowing to the station to buy Whale meat in small boat called a ‘bakkie’. Translated from Afrikaans, this means a small bowl. They were only allowed to buy the meat of the White Whale, as it was affordable, unlike the meat of different types of whales. That was left for the wealthier customers. Eric explains how the slaughtering of whales was done, first by cutting large strips into the meat and then a crane was used to pull the meat off. The carcass was then turned over and process repeated. Lastly the head and tail were removed and the rest of the fish was gutted.
He recalls that there were 6 whale boats, all named after mountains namely the Swartberg, Helderberg and Tierberg ect.
They were reared in Parkersdorp, now part of Saldanha Bay. Sadly the career of whale fisherman ended and boats became obsolete. His father trawled two of the boats right onto the beach, the Swartberg (the one Erics father worked on) lay in Parkersdorp and the other futher up the beach. His father did this purely for the love of the boats and wished to commemorate them in this way and allow him to enjoy them for years to come. In later years a fire destroyed the Swartberg boat so that only the kil remained gradually any trace of it has disappeared. The remains of the second boat the Paarlberg, can still be seen on the beach in Blue Water Bay .
His fathers own boat was a “Trekboot” called the Kanana. You could row or use sail to propel this vessel. They often caught snoek and Harders with this vessel.
The Norwegian yacht was another boat he completed.
Although born in Langebaan, his family moved to Parkersdorp when he was only 3 months old. See photo below of the what Parkersdorp layout was in 1945 and their home.
Parkersdorp got its name when a Mr Parker, a travelling hawker, built a small wooden structure (after years of staying in a tent) that he used when he moved through this area selling his wares.
He explains that Saldanha was originally made up of several small towns that existed in the early days in close proximity to one another. White City was one town (still known by that name today), Klippies Town (Stone town), known today as the Hoedjies Kop area (the small hill in the heart of Saldanha town today). The coloured people who used to live here was moved to White City. Another town was Cemetry View (it no longer exists today) but is roughly includes 9th and 10th lane in Saldanha and the old Cemetry which still exists today. Lastly, Parkersdorp (Parkers town) – still known today as that name, but no longer a separate town, rather a suburb of the greater Saldanha town.