Lynn B. Harris
A PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE SEAPORT, TABLE BAY, AND SHIPWRECKS IN THE VICINITY OF CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA.
(Under the direction of Professor William N. Still, Jr.) Department of History, December 1988.
The purpose of this study is to explore the potential of both documentary and archaeological sources to supplement the maritime history of Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town played an important role as a shipping station for the Dutch East India Company (1652 - 1795), British base to suppress the slave-trade and ship prisoners during the second Anglo-Boer War (1899 - 1902), focal point for World War I and II troopships, and stopover for passenger shipping services during the nineteenth century. Shipwrecks in the treacherous anchorage, Table Bay, were the cause of financial loss to many nations, particularly the Dutch. Since the eighteenth century, when John Lethbridge ventured into Cape waters with his "most famous diving machine," salvage of these shipwrecks has also become a feature of South Africa's maritime history.
Salvage, urban developments, and heavy surf has depleted, destroyed, or buried many shipwreck sites in the vicinity of Cape Town. Artifacts recovered by divers and various collections donated to the South African Cultural History Museum, as well as the timbers of the Niewe Rhoon (1776) excavated during the Civic Center building operations, represent the only material evidence of these sites.
A preliminary survey of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century shipwreck sites in the vicinity of Cape Town was conducted. A magnetometer survey to locate and identify remaining sites was undertaken in the nearshore Table Bay area. Five sites were located: three dating to the nineteenth century and two to an earlier time period. The potential significance of local sedimentary processes for survey planning was also investigated. Mapping the site of the Huis de Crayenstein (1698) provided data about the cannon and anchors carried aboard Dutch East Indiamen.