How does a kid who grew up in a Durban township wind up in command of an ice breaker making its way through the treacherous southern oceans on a mission of science and discovery?
Knowledge Bengu, who was born in Umlazi, had his mind on medicine until his neighbour, a seaman turned training officer, introduced him to a world of opportunities.
Today, Knowledge stands firm aboard the Agulhas as South Africa’s first licensed black ice pilot, meaning he's licensed to navigate some of the most dangerous parts of the world's oceans, where one mistake could leave a ship stranded.
Responsible for missions of science and discovery, Knowledge has faced wild oceans in some of the most remote places on the planet - with his crowning achievement being his first journey to Antarctica.
After a nice long day where I have had to pull a rabbit out of a hat, and everybody is saying ‘Thank you Captain, I don’t know how you pulled that one off’, all those thank you’s, they make me feel like a hero.— Captain Knowledge Bengu – Commander of the SA Agulhus II
At 36 years old, Knowledge is a young captain, but one with a level of experience that few achieve before their mid-40s.
If someone thinks I’m too young to be a master, and yet I’ve been a master for years, that means it’s a milestone.— Captain Knowledge Bengu – Commander of the SA Agulhus II
Over the years, as Knowledge rose through the ranks, he worked with various captains with different leadership styles. Naturally pushed into a leadership role, he observed, cherry-picked and implemented the best aspects of their styles to form his own management formula.
Clearly a working format, Knowledge has built a good understanding with his crew and can attest to the growth of many of them.
For me success is more about - do people come to you and say thank you, through your advice and your guidance I have managed to get this far.— Captain Knowledge Bengu – Commander of the SA Agulhus II
In this week’s Face to Face with Success, Knowledge Bengu shares the story behind his life of service, adventure and success.
This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Meet Knowledge Bengu – Master of the SA Agulhas II