Eddie Papier is a character, and a conservationist. He worked for several years as a ranger for SANParks in the West Coast National Park, and there is probably no-one else who knows it as well as he does. (His wife Caroline worked for several years at the excellent restaurant at the beautifully-restored homestead at Geelbek in the park).
Eddie was born in what was to become part of the park (near the Oosterwal homestead on the eastern shore of the lagoon), and he spent his early childhood growing up there. His dad was a fisherman and a whaler, when there was still a Norwegian whaling station at Donkergat on the end of the lagoon’s peninsula.
Eddie spent his early adult life on whaling boats, mostly on the west coast of Africa, off the shores of Angola and Canary Islands. Then he moved to SAFMarine, the huge freight shipping company, and Eddie saw most of the world from the decks of his huge container ship.
But he still considers Langebaan and its lagoon as the most beautiful place on earth. He says,however, that development has a lot to answer for. He has a hunch, for instance, that there is much more sand in the lagoon now, because of the construction of the massive breakwater for Saldanha harbour. The result of more sand is fewer fish; the lagoon is a crucial area for fish spawning, and the lagoon is considered the source of the local fish stocks. Without a healthy lagoon, there’ll be far fewer fish to catch offshore and in the bay.
Another noticeable difference is the huge development of houses in Langebaan. Today, a property developer wants to develop a housing estate right onto the border of the park’s north-eastern boundary, impacting seriously on the so-called view-shed of the park.
But there’s so much to appreciate, Eddie says. “I’ve seen so many damaged areas overseas, where cities and industry have destroyed potentially beautiful places, but here, the West Coast National Park has protected this piece of paradise.”
His most memorable memory? “I once saw two ostriches swimming across the lagoon!” Eddie laughed. “They looked like the Loch Ness monster! I never knew they could swim!”
Thanks for your time Eddie, it was good to chat to you!
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