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stepping stones of maritime history


The Nieuw Rhoon was a Dutch East Indiaman homebound from Ceylon to Holland. It was her fifth journey and the ship was under the command of Jacob Koelders.

When the Nieuw Rhoon arrived at the Cape she was taken out of the service. The condition of the ship had deteriorated so that she became unseaworthy. When attempting to enter Table Bay the ship was driven upon a reef (presumably 'whale rock') near Robben Island by a violent South-Easter. She hit the reef hard, which caused a large leak. The Nieuwe Rhoon was heavily damaged, so she was brought up to the anchorage. It was necessary to beach her by the jetty to save her cargo. The ship was laid up at the Cape on 1 March 1776. The cargo of the Nieuw Rhoon was transported to Amsterdam by another ship: the Patriot (DAS reference 7948).

Example of East India man in the storms that occur at Table Bay (source: Atlas of Mutual Heritage).


The Nieuw Rhoon was a Dutch East Indiaman built in Middelburg, Zeeland for the Amsterdam Chamber of the VOC. She carried 312-353 souls.

Dutch East Indiaman.

MasterJacob Koelders
Length150 feet (45.7 m)
Tonnage1150 ton (575 last)


The wreck was known as the 'Civic Centre ship' as she was found her during the construction of the Civic Centre Building on the foreshore of Cape Town in 1970. It was not a complete surprise to find a shipwreck at that location as it used to be a large mooring ground for sailing ships in Table Bay.

The surviving structure of the ship comprised parts of the lower hull on both sides of the keel. However, when found some was recovered and photographed but no timber was preserved. Only artefacts remained of interest. Artefacts of the Nieuw Rhoon included ceramics such as Chinese porcelain, shot and clay pipes. A concretion of black pepper was also found, confirming that this ship was indeed a homeward-bound East Indiaman.

The pine sheathing of the wreck had only been nailed once indicating a relatively new vessel since three or four sheathings were common during the lifetime of a ship. The pine sheathing was applied as protection from elements such as shipworm (Teredo navalis).

Example of a shipworm

Example of a shipworm.

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 artifacts removed from the wreck may not be traded without SAHRA's permission.

SAHRA logo.


  • Gegevens VOC-schip Nieuw Rhoon.
    De VOCsite.
  • Harris, L.B., 1993. ECU research report no.8. The Seaport, Table Bay. An archaeological and historical perspective.
  • Jörg, C.J.A., 1978. Porselein als handelswaar : de porseleinhandel als onderdeel van de Chinahandel van de V.O.C., 1729-1794. - Groningen: Jörg, 1978. - 387 p., [nl].
  • NA-, [s.a]. Lijst van alle zoodanige Schepen in soorten als bij de Generale Oostindische Compagnie zijn gemaekt oft gekocht als gehuurt alsmede waer oft de zelfde zijn agter gebleven ofte verongelukt als genoomen en verbrand, vermist of.
  • RGP-GS166, 1979. Dutch-Asiatic Shipping in the 17th and 18th centuries, Volume II, Outward-bound voyages from the Netherlands to Asia and the Cape (1595-1794). - Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1979. - 765 p., [en] - ISBN 90-247-2270-5.
  • RGP-GS167, 1979. Dutch-Asiatic Shipping in the 17th and 18th centuries, Volume III, Homeward-bound voyages from Asia and the Cape to the Netherlands (1597-1795). - Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1979. - 626 p., [en] - ISBN 90-247-228.

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