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Historical description

The Nieuw Rhoon was 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 and a big leak was caused. The Nieuwe Rhoon was damaged in such a way that she was got off and 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 the first of 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).

Archaeological description

The ship was known as the 'civic centre ship' due to the location where she was found. They 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 ship in Table Bay.

The surviving structure of the ship comprised of 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, shots and clay pipes. The concretion of black pepper was also found, confirming that this ship is indeed a homeward-bound East Indiaman.

The pine sheathing of the wood at 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).

Nieuw Rhoon

Example of a shipworm.


Yard: Middelburg, Zeeland

Chamber: Amsterdam

Complement: 312-353

Dutch East Indiaman.

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


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


  • 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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