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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 Jacobus Coleders.

When the Nieuw Rhoon arrived at the Cape she was taken out of the service as 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. As a result, the Nieuw 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 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 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 Civic Centre development

Excavation of the Nieuw Rhoon

A wreck was discovered and excavated during the building of the Cape Town Civic Centre in the 1970s. It was recorded and excavated by Bob Lightly, who then went on to identify it as possibly being the Nieuw Rhoon, due to the small amount of artefacts on board and the large amount of ballast, which indicated that the ship had maybe been deliberately sunk. However, it remains to be conclusively proven that this ship was indeed the Nieuw Rhoon.

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 factors such as shipworm (Teredo navalis).

Example of a shipworm

Example of a shipworm.

The collection of excavated material from this wreck is held at Iziko museums, Cape Town. The Iziko Museum received the timbers and the clay pipes, although the cannon balls were stolen. The Timbers were not conserved or studied though. There are some small artefacts which were also recovered from the excavation and may be from the wreck.

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.
  • 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].
  • Leijh, H. (2019).
    Nieuwe Rhoon: a Ship Biography [Unpublished Paper].
    Leiden University.
  • Reinier Nooms.
    Het schip De Salamander.

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