direct to content


stepping stones of maritime history


The Maria was sailing back to the Netherlands from Ceylon. However, by the 13th of August 1788 the Maria was leaking and 21 out of a crew of 40 had succumbed to scurvy. Only the captain and 4 of the crew were still able to walk. This forced the Maria to anchor off the coast of Plettenberg Bay. Fortunately, the vessel was later found by the Meermin and accompanied into the Bay. After 10 days at anchor in Plettenberg Bay, a violent south-easterly gale cause the ship to capsize, and the vessel was quickly destroyed.

The Cape authorities placed great importance on salvaging the material and made sure to regain and establish as much of the washed-up cargo as was possible over the next two years. This included sending guards and commissioners to the wreck site. Guards were stationed near the wreck site to prevent any pillaging of the cargo, though some of the linen from two of the linen bales was stolen. The spice and the coffee in the cargo could not be saved. Conversely, the sappanwood, which is used to make red dye, and linen was successfully recovered. The linen was washed and dried in a timber shed but much of the linen had to be rewashed once it got to Cape Town.

Franz Karl Phillip Von Winckelmann, who belonged to one of the last mercenary regiments to be stationed at the Cape, also travelled with the contingent of guards and supervisors to study the local tribes of indigenous peoples.


MasterPieter Seskes
People on board40
Tonnage908 ton (454 last)


The Maria’s cargo, along with the shipment from the Drietal Handelaars, was sent to the Netherlands aboard the Sara Hendrina.

The wreck of the Maria itself was sold at a public auction in the Bay, which attracted a large crowd.


  • DAS 8207.1.
  • 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    Dutch Shipwrecks in South African Waters: A Brief History of Sites, Stores and Archives [Unpublished].
  • Parkess, M. (1988).
    Knysna, the Forgotten Port.
    Emu Publishers.
  • Reinier Nooms.
    Het schip De Salamander.

Down on 20 May

New in MaSS

Wrecks of Flevoland

Burgzand Noord

13 Provinces