I got into contact with a professor at the University of L├╝deritz, who serves as a go-between for many of the local maritime operators in addition to managing the archives. He was able to confirm the story through local sources: the MV Isabella did in fact run aground on the Skeleton Coast during inclement weather on June 17, 1974. By the time rescuers arrived, half of the crew had died.

At that point, however, there was an interesting divergence in our records. My sources had indicated that the men had died of exposure or injuries sustained during the grounding. The university and newspaper archives, on the other hand, claim that the survivors were found some distance inland, near the coastal road. The casualties were scattered all over the area between the coast and the Isabella, and no cause of death was listed.

“Why would the press release that went out worldwide disagree with what people on the ground knew to be true?” I asked myself.

My answer came in an email a few days later. “For the same reason behind any false information: fear.”

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