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stepping stones of maritime history

Description

The ship Huis te Crayenstein sailed for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a merchant vessel between Patria and the Indies. She left Holland from the province of Zeeland with 275 people on board.

Despite a quick voyage with no sick or dead, she wrecked 3 miles off the coast of the Cape on 27 of May 1698. The ship was smashed against rocks by a strong current while visibility was obscured by a thick fog.

The Governer, Simon van der Stel, ordered the wreck's cargo to be salvaged and 16 chests of specie were saved out of the 19 on board the ship. The remaining three chests proved elusive, however, but it was eventually learned that these chests had been plundered by some of the crew. The crew was subsequently investigated to find the plunderers.

The captain and officers were subjected to an enquiry and received a verdict on the 30th of November 1698. The Captain and Chief Mate were deprived of office, rank, and pay, and declared unfit to serve the Company in any way in future. In addition, they were condemned, each in solidum, to refund the loss of the vessel and its cargo. The others got off relatively lightly by comparison, and were only suspended from the service of the Company, without pay, for a year.

MasterJan van de Vijver
People on board275
Length160.1 feet (48.8 m)
Tonnage1154 ton (577 last)

Status

Since the salvage attempts of the 17th century, the site of the Huis te Crayenstein has been heavily depleted by salvage operations. Artefacts such as coins and brass cannons had been recovered.

Henry Adams, a well-known local treasure hunter, who had recovered a good deal of material from wrecks in Table Bay with the aid of a diving bell during the previous decade, also salvaged the Huis te Crayenstein under agreement to split recovered goods with Cape Authorities. During September 1868, Adams with a party of twenty men and a large cargo boat succeeded in raising some items, most notably two large bronze cannons weighing at least three tons each. According to the Cape Argus, these were valued at “£300 as gun-metal, and more as works of art”, and about four tons of lead ingots.

In the 1960s a salvage expedition was led by Tom Asaro. During the expedition, they recovered specie, pewter spoons, clay pipes and lead caps. These items were donated to the South African Museum.

Miscellaneous artefacts from the Huis te Crayenstein

Clay pipes found among the wreckage of the Huis te Crayenstein

Many divers visited the site from the 1960s onwards, which resulted in the removal of coins and bronze cannons. Later salvage work was undertaken in the 1980s by R Wackerlie, although it is unclear what was recovered. Reports suggest that there were 2 or 3 millstones, numerous iron cannons and some lead ingots recovered during this work.

There is an old CB Gorman diving pump lying on-site in a gully. It is thought to be from when a dive boat turned over and the equipment tipped out. For a while, the wheels of the pump stuck out of the sand and it had some old canvas rubber hose still attached to it.

 A diving club reportedly used to take lead ingots off the site and sell them to buy equipment. Salvers such as Reg Dodds, Gary Scholtz and Malcolm Turner, have dived on this site and done a small amount of salvage were also interviewed on the status of the wreck.

SCUBA divers at the wreckage of the Huis 't Krayensteyn

All that is left today on the site are seven cannons and five anchors, conglomerates and small ceramic sherds. The wreck is situated in a sheltered bay and therefore easily accessible for shore diving. There is a lot of concretion and kelp on site.

Despite extensive salvaged in the past, the ship’s structure may, reportedly, still be present on the site. The only problem is the conditions and shifting sands which can create a lot of overburden on the site. Some mapping has been done to show the locations of the anchors and cannons. It is a popular dive site as it is relatively accessible. The remains of the vessel, as well as cannons and anchor, are jumbled amongst the submerged boulders.

The wreck site is protected in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act, No. 25 of 1999. This act regards historic shipwrecks as well. The site may not be disturbed without the permission of the South African Resources Agency (SAHRA) and artefacts removed from the wreck may not be traded without SAHRA's permission.

References

  • SAHRA Database.
  • Lesa la Grange, Martijn Manders, Briege Williams, John Gribble and Leon Derksen (2024).
    Dutch Shipwrecks in South African Waters: A Brief History of Sites, Stores and Archives [Unpublished].
  • Gribble, J. (2008).
    Geldkis and the wreck of the Het Huis de Craijestein, in Tales of Shipwrecks at the Cape of Storms.
    Historical Media, Cape Town.
  • Nicolaes Witsen.
    Aeloude en Hedendaegsche Scheepsbouw en Bestier.

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