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stepping stones of maritime history


In 1765, the Meermin was sent from the Cape to Madagascar to procure slaves and managed to get 140 slaves of both sexes. During the return passage to the Cape, the skipper, Gerrit Mulder, removed their irons, and on 18 February 1766, the slaves were given some assegais to polish. The slaves used this opportunity for mutiny, killing the supercargo and the rest of the deck watch – 24 men. The remaining 29 members of the crew were locked below decks.

After two days, through the mediation of a female slave, it was agreed that the crew would not be harmed if they returned the slaves to Madagascar. They were allowed back on deck, but instead of setting course for the island, they made for Cape Agulhas. Four days later, land was sighted, and while still some miles from the shore the slaves ordered the anchors to be dropped and went ashore in the longboat and pinnace, promising to light fires ashore should everything be safe.

On landing, the slaves saw the nearby house of Matthys Rostock and realised that they had been deceived. The local farmers all banded together and when the slaves refused to surrender, they attacked them, killing 14 and capturing the rest.

Meanwhile, the slaves aboard the Meermin were getting impatient when the boats failed to return. Members of the crew wrote messages describing the situation, placed them in bottles and dropped them overboard. Two of these messages washed ashore and were picked up. They asked that three fires be lit on the shore. When the slaves aboard saw the fires, they cut the cables and took the Meermin close inshore. Six then went ashore in a canoe but were surrounded immediately after they landed. One was shot and the rest captured.

Seeing what had happened, the slaves still aboard the vessel set upon the crew, who defended themselves until the vessel ran aground. The slaves then surrendered. In the end 112 slaves reached Cape Town, where they were sold at the slave market. The slaves surrendered and were sold at the slave market in Cape Town.

The Meermin could not be refloated and was battered to pieces by the sea where it struck land.


MasterGerrit Christopher Mulder
People on board193
Length110 feet (33.5 m)
Tonnage450 ton (225 last)


The search for the Meermin was initiated in 2004. Subsequently, an archaeological survey and test excavation was undertaken in 2006 to 2007 by a maritime archaeologist. Numerous anomalies and pieces of wreckage were found although none were thought to be from the Meermin.


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