A list of South African Shipwrecks

Antipolis (1977)

The Antipolis, a Greek oil tanker, ran aground on the rocks near Victoria Road in Oudekraal in the Cape on 29 July 1977. It was being towed to a wreckers yard and ran aground. It is firmly wedged onto the rocks and used to be a venue for parties until its superstructure was removed and sold as scrap.

Armadale Castle

The Armadale Castle was a mail steamer of 12 973 tons. A sister ship to the Kenilworth Castle, she was built by Fairfields, in Glasgow, Scotland, and came into service in 1903. In 1914, during the First World War, she was commissioned as an auxiliary cruiser in the 10th Cruiser Squadron. On 2 October she landed units of the South African army at the port of Luderitz, then part of German South West Africa. She was returned to the Cape mail run in 1918, was withdrawn from service in 1935, and broken up in 1936.

Arniton

The Arniston was built on the Thames in 1794 and was a British East Indiaman of 1 498 tons. It completed 8 successful voyages between Indian and China from November 1794 to June 1813. During 1813 or 1814 the ship was called to serve as troop transport between England, India and Sri Lanka for the Royal Navy.

The Arniston began its last journey in April 1815 from Pont de Galle in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, with a fleet of ships. Aboard were troops from the British campaigns in Kandia and Ghurka. There were a total of 378 people on board, including 14 women and 25 children.

On 26 March the Arniston separated from the rest of the fleet as a result of blown out sails. The ship was wrecked near Cape Agulhas on 30 April as a result of navigational mistakes and strong winds. Only 6 people survived the tragedy.

The African Maritime Museum and the National Monuments Council (NMC) have undertaken a survey and recording of a wooden wreck, believed to be the Arniston. This site is the first to fall under the National Monuments Council Act for shipwrecks.

Athenian

The Athenian, a mail steamer of 3 877 tons, was a sister ship to the Moor. She was commissioned in 1882 and was the first vessel to use Cape Town's new Robinson dry-dock. In December 1897 she was sold to the Canadian-Pacific Railway Company for use on the Klondyke gold rush, and was broken up in Japan in 1907. The Athenian made 12 round trips to the Cape, as well as a single north-bound trip from Cape Town to Southampton.

Balmoral Castle

The Balmoral Castle was a mail steamer of 13 361 tons, and a sister ship to the Edinburgh Castle. When she came into service in 1910 she was the first ship of the Union-Castle Line to be fitted with Marconi wireless telegraphy. That year she carried the Duke of Connaught and his party to South Africa to open the first Union Parliament. In 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, she was requisitioned as a troopship, and the following year carried the first South African troops to the European war front. In 1919 she resumed mail service, and she was scrapped in 1939.

Briton

The Briton, the third ship with this name, was a mail steamer of 10 248 tons. It was built by the shipyard of Harland and Wolff, at Belfast in Ireland. The steamer featured many of the best design features of the time, like coal- efficient engines and sweeping, elegant lines. Passengers danced to a six-piece orchestra and relaxed in a number of lounges and smoking-rooms. The ship also included a library. A voyage could take an average of fifteen days, and even first-class passengers often had to give up some of the pleasures they enjoyed at home. This did not prevent very wealthy passengers to use their influence to make the trip as easy as possible. When the Briton sailed to from South Africa to England in November 1907 a milk cow was put aboard "for the convenience of Dr Jameson ". On the return journey it carried two cows "for the use of Lady Farrar and her family". It is believed that the Union line reversed its policy on farmyard animals soon thereafter. In 1914 the Briton was one of six Union-Castle ships commissioned in Cape Town to carry troops of the Imperial Guard back to Britain at the start of the First World War. It returned to the mail service until 1915 when it was recalled to troopship duty. By 1920 the Briton had again returned to the mail run, was laid up as a reserve steamer off Netley for a while, only to be recalled to service in 1925. One voyage later the Briton was sent to the breakers' yards in Italy.

Carisbrook Castle

The Carisbrook Castle, the second ship of that name, was a mail steamer of 7 594 tons. She came into service in 1898, and in December 1906 she was briefly taken out of commission for a refitting. In 1912 was transferred to the East African route and in 1914 she was converted to a hospital ship, and in 1922 was sold to shipbreakers.

Childe Herold (1850)

A 463-ton British wooden ship, the Childe Herold, en route from Bombay to London is wrecked off Dassen Island. It was carrying more than 1 300 pieces of ivory.

Clan Stuart (1914)

The Clan Stuart was a steamship blown ashore in 1914 betweeb Glencairn and Simon's Town.

County of Pembroke

The County of Pembroke, a British cargo ship, was shipwrecked in Algoa Bay in 1903. She was towed to the mouth of the Coega River and sunk in 1904. The wreckage was finally found and fully identified in 2004, when divers brought a part of her bow with a faint outline of her name to the surface. The divers had been exploring the Port of Ngqura and found the wreck in May 2004. THey initially though it was the remains of the John N Gamewell, a small American brigantine that sank in the area in 1880. Divers are currently removing the wreck completely according to instructions from the South African Heritage Resource Agency. She had been carrying 100 tons of cement powder.

De Nieuwe Haerlem

The Nieuwe Haerlem and Schiedam, two Dutch East India Company (VOC) ships, left Batavia for Holland on 22 December 1646. The Haerlem ran aground near Table Bay on 22 March 1647, and although another VOC ship, the Elephant, tried to help, the crew of the Haerlem was forced to abandon ship.

The more than 60 survivors began building a wooden fort, called Sandenburgh, with the help of the Elephant and Schiedam's crews, and tried to save as much of the company's property as possible. This means that the first European settlement of South Africa occurred as a result of a shipwreck.

During their stay at the Cape the crew of the Haerlem befriended the local population and traded fresh for meat, but were anxious to return home. In 1648 they were saved by a fleet of 12 ships under the command of W G de Jongh. Jan van Riebeeck was on one of these ships, travelling back to Holland from Batavia.

On their return to Europe the former crew of the Haerlem suggested that the Cape be used as a VOC service station for ships travelling from Europe to the East. The company approved the scheme and on 6 April 1652 a group of 90 settlers, under the leadership of van Riebeeck, arrived at the Cape.

Dunottar Castle

The Dunottar Castle was a mail steamer of 5 625 tons built by the firm of Fairfields, in Glasgow, Scotland. It was launched in September 1890 and, following an initial cruise around the Scottish coast, in October 1890 was brought into service on the South African route. The Dunottar was a fast ship developed to meet the challenge of the Union Line for the Cape mail contract. On her first voyage to the Cape she completed the journey in 17 days 20 hours, trimming nearly a day off the record set nine years previously by the Drummond Castle. On this occasion her complement of passengers included the first English rugby side to tour South Africa.

At a banquet held on board the liner shortly before she sailed, the Chairman of the Castle Line, Sir Donald Curry, presented the team with a large gold cup, which he requested they hand to their South African hosts. It was to be used as a trophy for an internal rugby competition, thus beginning a long tradition in South African sport. In October 1899 General Redvers Buller sailed to South Africa on the Dunottar Castle to take command of British forces against the Boer republics during the Second Anglo Boer War. In 1907 she was chartered to the Panama Railroad Company and used as a cruise ship, and in 1913 she was sold to the Royal Mail Line who renamed her the Caribbean. In 1914 the Dunottar Castle was converted into an armed merchant cruiser, and on 26 September 1915 she foundered off Cape Wrath with the loss of fifteen lives. The Dunottar Castle made 47 round trips to the Cape.

Dunvegan Castle

The Dunvegan Castle was a mail steamer of 5 958 tons, similar to the Tantallon Castle. She came into service in 1896, was laid up temporarily in 1904, and then placed in service on the East African route, via the Suez Canal. On 10 August 1914 she landed the first British Expeditionary Force in France with the outbreak of the First World War. In 1917 she carried General Jan Smuts to Britain to join the War Cabinet, and in 1923 she was withdrawn from service and sold to shipbreakers in Germany. The Dunvegan Castle made 39 round trips to the Cape, as well as a single north-bound voyage from Cape Town to Southampton.

Johanna (Joanna) (1682)

The Johanna, or Joanna, was a British East Indiaman sailing from Kent to Surat under the command of Captain Robert Brown. She embarked on 27 February 1682 and was the first of her kind to shipwreck on the South African coast.

The Johanna was lost near the Cape east coast at around 4 o'clock in the morning on 8 June 1682. She was transporting 72 000 pounds of silver. The rumours of the treasure she carried inspired Simon van der Stel, the Commander of the Cape of Good Hope at the time, to send a salvage expedition to search for the wreck under the leadership of Olaf Bergh, a Dutch East India Company (VOC) employee. Bergh found the wreck site and returned to the Cape with a massive amount of coins, bottles of brandy and kegs of wine and beer.

Following this expedition the Johanna lay undisturbed until 1983 and is now the second site to fall under the National Monuments Council Act relating to shipwrecks. The Arniston is the first.

La Fortune (1763)

On 11 September 1763 the La Fortune, a French man-of-war, was wrecked opposite a fresh water spring near Mosselbay in the Western Cape Province. It was on its way from Reunion.

Norham Castle

The Norham Castle, together with her sister ships the Hawarden Castle and the Roslin Castle, was a mail steamer of 4 241 tons designed to meet the requirements of the new mail contract of 1883. This contract stipulated that the outward voyage from Dartmouth to Table Bay, South Africa, should not exceed 21 days. While in use on the Cape mail run she suffered two serious breakdowns.

In January 1888 she left Cape Town, and two days out of port suffered a shattered propeller and rudder. She drifted for three weeks before a passing ship reported her position and a whaler was despatched to her rescue from St Helena. Three years later, on 14 April 1901, she suffered a broken cylinder head some 800km off Ascension Island. Thirteen hours later she was sighted by the SS Tongariro, bound for Cape Town, who gave her a tow to Ascension where her mails were transferred. After making makeshift repairs at Ascension, the Norham set sail for St Helena where her engines finally broke down. The Charisbrook Castle picked up her passengers on 28 March.

Despite these misadventures the Norham Castle outlasted both her sister ships. The Hawarden, renamed the Cyryl, was lost in the Amazon River, while the Roslin, renamed the Regina, ran aground off the Mozambique coast. After she was refloated she was towed to Genova where she was scrapped. In 1903 the Norham Castle was sold to the French firm of CGT and renamed the Martinique, and in 1932 was sold to Italian ship-breaking yards.

Norman

The Norman, the second ship of that name, was a mail steamer of 7 537 tons, which came into service in 1894. In 1899 she was requisitioned by the Military as a troop transport for the Second Anglo Boer War and in 1910 she was laid up as a reserve vessel at Netley, in Southampton. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 she was brought out of reserve and was in the first convoy to carry the British Expeditionary Force to France. She was returned to the Cape mail run in 1919, and after being transferred to the round-Africa service in 1921, she was sent to the ship-breaker's yards in 1926. Although not as elaborately furnished as some later vessels, the Norman was highly successful and was popular with many regular travellers on the Cape route.

On 10 June 1907 the Eastern Province Herald reported that an unusual mail delivery had been made at sea on 25 April when the RMS Norman overtook the Union Castle SS Galeka in mid-Atlantic and dropped a barrel overboard containing letters for the latter's passengers. The innovation is said to have been appreciated by the passengers of the two boats who interchanged cheers while the Norman's band played "Auld Lang Syne".

Pembroke Castle

The Pembroke Castle, the second ship of that name, was a steamer of 3 946 tons. She came into service in 1883 and was probably best known for a cruise she undertook to Norway and Sweden shortly after her delivery in September 1883. Her owner, Sir Donald Currie, entertained 29 members of Europe's royal families, as well as Prime Minister Gladstone and Alfred Lord Tennyson, on board. Gladstone received a royal reprimand from Queen Victoria for his part in the affair, since he had not first sought her permission to absent himself from his office. She was sold to the Turkish government in 1906. The Pembroke Castle made only one round trip to the Cape.

Pretoria

The Pretoria was a mail steamer of 3 199 tons, which, together with her sister ship, the German, came into service in 1878. In 1879 she performed military duty, transporting British troops to fight in the Anglo Zulu War and in 1888 was transferred to intermediate service. In 1897 she was sold to the Quebec Steamship Co (Harris and Ingpen). In 1896 she made her only round trip to the Cape, substituting for the Moor.

Roslin Castle

The Roslin Castle, the second ship of that name and a sister ship to the Norham and Hawarden Castles, was a mail steamer of 4 267 tons. Originally advertised as the Armadale Castle, she came into service in 1883, and was refitted in 1888. During the course of the Second Anglo Boer War she was converted to serve as a hospital ship and troop carrier.

In 1904 she was sold to a German line who renamed her the Regina and equipped her as a Russian naval storeship for service in the Far East. In March 1905 she ran aground off the coast of Mocambique, and after she was refloated, she was towed first to Durban and hence to Genova where she was broken up.

Sao João (1552)

The Sao João was a large 900 ton galleon, built in Lisbon, Portugal's shipyards in 1550. Its first voyage was to India, and on its return it sank. It left Cochin, India on 3 February 1552 loaded with pepper, Chinese porcelain and other merchandise.

The Sao João's rigging was damaged in a storm and on 8 June 1552 its hull was broken into 3 parts on the rocks near Port Edward in KwaZulu Natal. About 120 of her 600 passengers died in the wreck and the survivors undertook a difficult five and a half month march to the mouth of the Maputo River in Mozambique. Most of them died in attacks by local groups, or from disease and starvation. Nearly 500 people began the march, but only 25 arrived at the Maputo River.

The site for the wreck of the Sao João may be off the coast of KwaZulu Natal, near Port Edward. South Africa. An interesting collection of artifacts was recovered, studied, and published with most of the artifacts on display at the Natal museum.

Bernardo Gomes de Brito's 18th century collection, História Trágico-MarÁ­tima, contains an account of the vessel's loss, which has become one of the best-known stories of the period of Portuguese expansion overseas.

In 1980 a sport diver found and recovered part of a bronze gun from the what was believed to be the site of the wreck. A team of sport divers surveyed the area in 1983 and they recovered many artifacts in spite of problematic conditions. Poor visibility, a difficult rocky bottom, and strong surf and current made it very difficult to recover all the artifacts and no hull remains were ever found. Some of the artifacts recovered were offered to the Natal Museum, in South Africa, including the fragment of the bronze gun, shards of Ming porcelain from the Jiajing period (1522-1566), coarse earthenware, and glass beads from Cambay, India.

Santa Maria Madre de Deus (1643)

The wreck site of the Santa Maria Madre de Deus may have been found off the east coast of South Africa. At this time no conclusive proof has been produced to verify its identity.

Santo Alberto (1593)

The wreck site of the Santo Alberto may be close to the mouth of the Umtata River, on the east coast of South Africa. At this time there is no conclusive proof of its positive identification.

Santo Espiritu (1608)

The Santo Esperitu may have been shipwrecked on the eastern coast of South Africa. Porcelain shards have been seen, and may indicate the location of the wreck, but so far no conclusive evidence has been produced to confirm its identification.

Sao Joao Baptista (1622)

The hull remains of the Sao João Baptista may have been found near Cannon Rocks, in the Eastern Cape, but so far no evidence has been produced to allow its identification.

Trojan

The Trojan was a sister ship to the Spartan, and only completed a single northward leg of the voyage between Cape Town and Southampton, or possibly Plymouth. It was replacing the Moor for this trip.