The Hotel Odjo d´água in the now popular tourist village of Santa Maria on the island of Sal, Cabo Verde was the setting for a fascinating historical discovery. I remember sipping a cool glass of Chã Branco in the sunshine and reading the menu from the bar named “Damford” when my wife asked if I had dived the Damford shipwreck? Answering “no” and for the rest of the day I tried to research this ship, that has special interest to the Cape Verdean people, but to no avail.The breakthrough came when for some strange reason I changed the letter ‘m’ for ‘n’ and a link to the MV Dandford was found on the Wrecksite.EU website. But that’s not all, it was soon discovered that she was previously known as the MV Sørvard with a separate record in the shipwreck database.

MV Sørvard and WWII

MS Sørvard 1925
The MV Damfjord around 1925 as launched as the Norweigen owned MV Sørvard.

Built by Burmeister & Wain shipyard in København, Danmark in 1925 for the Laurits Kloster shipping company, the Sørvard transferred to Nortraship, the Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission, established in London in April 1940 to administer the Norwegian merchant fleet outside German-controlled areas.

She was in Calcutta when war broke out in Norway on 9th April 1940. She had arrived there from Rangoon on 6th April and departure is given as 19th April. Sørvard was sailing between Bathurst and Dakar, arriving the 22nd June and subsequently interned in the outer harbour of Dakar on 26th June 1940, one of the twenty six Norwegian ships interned in North and West Africa at the time. Any escape being made impossible by the French battleship FR Richelieu and other French warships.

She was freed subsequent to the ‘Operation Torch‘ Allied Invasion of French North Africa in November 1942 , returning to the Nortraship register on 20th March 1943.

The Sørvard made many transatlantic voyages for the remaining part of the war, her last convoy HX 356 from New York to the Clyde, departing 13th May and arriving 27th May 1945.

The Scandinavian captain had been interned by the Vichy French for a year and a half with his 7,000 ton motor ship, Sørvard. The French allowed him a fair amount of freedom and he and his crew went fishing to increase their food supplies. "Each week we got letters from home" he said. "Then when North Africa was invaded and Dakar came over, we were released. Since then we have sailed on the Atlantic route. I hope it will not be long now until I see my home and family in Stravanger again."

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 21 June 1944

MV Danfjord

After the war and in 1947, the Sørvard was sold to A/S Dampskibsselskabet Dania (Chr. Andresen) of Denmark for 3,450,000 Danish Krone (DKK) and renamed Danfjord.

The ship sailed for the French Ministry of Transport and was on its way from Lobito in Angola via Dakar to Mindelo on the Cape Verde island of São Vicente loaded with zinc, coffee and cocoa. Some four nautical miles east of the Cape Verde island of Sal, around 4.00am on 9th March 1948, the Danfjord hit a presumed underwater wreck which gave two violent jerks and she started to leak heavily. She then headed towards the south bay of the island, being Ponta da Fragata on the south east side of the island. However, the front sank so fast that she fully submerged one nautical mile from land off Praia Negra. The crew entered Santa Maria and were accommodated there.

When the Danfjord was wrecked, she was carrying coffee, cocoa, chocolate and oil, helped alleviate the starving local people who were facing drought. The sinking plays an important recent historical event.

Sinking Danfjord 1
Sinking Danfjord 2

“The Damfjord beaching was an event of major relevance to the island of Sal, becoming part of the collective memory of its people, passed down through generations. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for it to fall into oblivion, which, if materialized, will impoverish the collective heritage of the island. It is therefore of utmost importance that local living forces (associations, high schools, nautical sports groups, radios, theatre groups, individual citizens, etc.), as well as municipal authorities, with the City Council at their head, take the lead Damfjord as an event that, due to the positive impact it has had on Salense society, deserves to be rescued, flagged and passed on to younger generations.”

Eye Witness
Danfjord not Damfjord
Danfjord Seat

On 9th March 2019, it was 71 years since the peacefulness of the island of Sal was shaken by the news of the stranding of a Danish boat, the Damfjord, on the east coast of Santa Maria.

As the accident occurred during the night, the news spread quickly early in the morning, as the boat was visible from the village, arousing great anxiety in the population who, from experience, knew that the stranding of a boat was almost always synonymous of joy, of an abundance of products coming out on the beach.

Furthermore, in 1948, the year of the aforementioned stranding, Ilha do Sal, like all Cape Verde, faced a terrible crisis, due to the drought and the lack of movement in the salt pans, forcing a large part of the population to live in a situation. extremely hard.

If the population’s expectations, generated by the news of the shipwreck, were great, the benefits that it derived from it were not smaller. Damfjord responded to the expectation of a joy fed by the population, spouting on the beach different types of products, namely coffee, cocoa, chocolate, oil, etc., which contributed to alleviating the suffering of the people of Sal

The Wreck Today

Today the Danfjord sits around 12 metres to the rocky seabed on the southern part of the east of the island of Sal. Known locally as Praia D’Fragata, the nearest point of reference would be a mile or so off Kite Beach. Due to the huge swells and winds that bring the kite surfers to the area, the wreck itself is quite flat and can only be dived with minimum winds, swell and surge. Not regularly dived due to it’s location and weather dependency, the best time to dive her is around August when the winds drop and the humidity increases. Visibility is good, though both times I dived it was a milky 15m or so and water temperatures for August of 26degC. Having dived her twice, I can recommend getting in touch with Neil and Sandra of Eco Dive School. Read how we got on diving the MV Danfjord.