Patagonia's Boers - Sunday Times
On 22 August 1965 the Sunday Times published the following story on Patagonia's Boers that "tamed a rugged and barren land" written by Peter Schirmer.
"On a cold, rainswept day at the end of April, 1903, the Steamer S.S. Highland King rounded the Cabo dos Bahias, 46 degrees south of the Equator, and anchored in the northern-most bay of the Gulf of San Jorge.
From her rust-streaked decks a group of 138 "Bittereinders" - Boers who had refused to remain in South Africa under the British flag following their defeat in the South African War - gazed across the wind-tossed water at a bleak stretch of land.
A thin strip of shingle beach was bisected by a narrow wooden jetty that protruded a few yards from the shore. Above the beach stood three corrugated iron shacks. Beyond these stretched the inhospitable waste of Pategonia in Argentina. The sandy brown earth and the rocks were broken only by a few stunted trees and patches of scrub.
The possessions of the 24 families less than 100 animals, a few pieces furniture and ironbound trunks were ferried ashore in the steamer's two lifeboats. The women and children joined the men who had preceded them in a huddle in the lee of the largest of the tree shacks.
As the animals were tethered in a hastily-constructed kraal just above the beach rain fell followed by hail.
Commandant "Stoffel" Myburg, leader of the new Boer colony in Argentina, led the group as they knelt in prayer. The siren of the High-land King hooted a mournful farewell as she headed out to sea.
After an event-filled voyage of more than three months, the colonists had arrived in a new promised land.
"We were completely alone and as night began to fall, a strong bitterly cold wind blew up from the Antarctic. I remember my mother weeping and bemoaning the fact that we had ever left South Africa," Mr. Johannes Cornelis Venter (Oom Jan), who was 13 at the time, told me.
"Those were terrible days. Each family had been given a large bag of meal and £1 by the Argentine authorities, but apart from that we had almost nothing. We were poor - very poor," Oom Jan continued.
"The wind blew for days -spitting dust and sand Into our faces as we trekked inland to the farms which were to be our new homes."
"Within a week of landing it began to snow and when we reached our farms we built snow-houses in which to shelter. All we had to eat was the meal, ostriches and guanaca (a small type of llama) when we managed to shoot them.
"It was a terrible winter. There has only been one to equal it in all the years we have been here. Several Boers died and many were ill."
"But we survived and were established and able to give help when the other groups of settlers came in 1905 and 1907."
Today, the iron shacks and the deserted beach have given way to a breakwater, harbour and jetties behind which sprawls the town of Commodoro Rivadavia with its 50,000 population. Oil rigs line the shore and stretch out into the waters of the Gulf of San Jorge.
The descendants of those first settlers own some of the finest sheep farms in Argentina and form the largest Afrikaans-speaking community outside South Africa.
At the foot of the hill where the settlers spent their first night and which for many years was the uitspanplek" of the farmers, stands a white-painted Dutch Reformed Church. On the crest of the same hill is a small school where the grand children and great-grandchildren of the settlers are taught Afrikaans. In the tiny town of Sarmiento, 120 miles inland, more Afrikaans than Spanish is heard in the shops, bars and offices.