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stepping stones of maritime history


The Nagel departed Texel on 28 December 1707 and arrived at the Cape on 10 May 1708. According to the Dagregister, the Nagel was being used to transport goods around the colony. At the time that the Nagel was lost, she was on a fishing expedition to Saldanha.

The vessel was at anchor in front of the posthuis at the Saldanha buitepost on 27 May 1709. At about 2pm the skipper and four men rowed to the shore to repair their fishing net in their tent on the beach. The first officer and medic remained on board, in the forecastle. In the evening they had reportedly lit a lamp in the cabin and returned to the forecastle.

Subsequently, the lamp started a fire in the cabin and the flames quickly spread to the rest of the vessel. The skipper and postholder, corporal F van der Werf, noticed the fire and rowed out to the vessel. The men decided to try and douse the flames with water, but to no avail. As a last resort, axes were used to cut holes in the hull so that the ship would sink and extinguish the inferno, and the vessel proceeded to burn down to the waterline. Fortunately, there were no casualties during the incident.

The hulk of the Nagel eventually floated to the western shore and lay exposed at low tide. Once the wreck was onshore, the lead, iron, two cannons, three bassen (rear end loading brass cannon), anchors, etc. could be salvaged.

The captain and the crew lost their food, bedding, clothes and boxes during the incident and decided to stay at the posthuis while they were waiting for orders. In the meantime, the first officer and the medic travelled to the Cape castle to report the incident.

The Dagregister for 31 May 1709 states that Governor Van Assenburg placed the first officer and the medic under arrest. Assenburg also gave orders that any salvagable material be retrieved and kept at the posthuis until the Amy could fetch it.

Length66.6 feet (20.3 m)
Width16.6 feet (5.1 m)
Draft8.8 feet (2.7 m)
Tonnage130 ton (65 last)


  • DAS 2037.1.
  • 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    Dutch Shipwrecks in South African Waters: A Brief History of Sites, Stores and Archives [Unpublished].
  • SAHRA Database.

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