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stepping stones of maritime history


The ship Oosterland was a big East Indiaman sailing between Patria and the Indies. The Oosterland's second voyage, a very successful voyage of only two months and ten days, from the Netherlands brought her back to the Cape in July 1688. Most voyages from the Netherlands took between four and six months! This time she carried refugees from France among her 33 passengers, including some Huguenot families who were to become significant in South Africa's later history.

The Dutch East Indiaman Oosterland foundered, together with the Waddinxveen, during a storm in Table Bay. She was on her way back from the fourth voyage to the east. There was a strong wind from the northwest, heavy rain and the ships drifted away and stranded in the shallow waters of the salt river, near Milnerton bay.

The foundering of the Oosterland together with the Waddinxveen resulted in a setback for the Dutch East India Company. Two important Dutch East Indiaman were lost as well as 140 crewmembers.

Dutch ships at Table Bay by Aernout Smith.

The excavation

Nearly 300 years after being lost the ships Oosterland and Waddinxveen were found by amateur divers in 1988. This discovery resulted in the first scientific underwater archaeological excavation in South Africa. This archaeological excavation was led by Bruno Werz in combination with Cape Town University and started in the early 1990s.

The wreck site

The ship Oosterland lies at a depth of 6 metres, just a few hundred metres from the entrance to Milnerton Lagoon. However, strong winds and currents, in combination with cold water and poor visibility, made the excavation of the wreck site quite challenging.


Found onboard the Oosterland were artifacts that are consistent with the cargo of the Dutch East India Company. The cargo of this ship consisted of textiles, spices such as cinnamon, wood and diamonds. Cannons were also found onboard this ship and these were the ones that provided the identification.

Diver at the site.


Type: Dutch East Indiaman
Built: Yard Zeeland, 1685
Owner: VOC Chamber Amsterdam

Tonnage: 600 last

only two survived.

Dutch East Indiaman at the Cape, SA.

People on board149
Length160 feet (48.8 m)


This wreck site is protected in 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.


  • Werz, Bruno E.J.S.
    Een bedroefd, en beclaaglijck ongeval'. De wrakken van de VOC-schepen Oosterland en Waddinxveen (1697) in de Tafelbaai.
    Zutphen, Walburg Pers.
  • DAS 5975.4.

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