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stepping stones of maritime history


Eight other vessels wrecked on the 21st of May 1737, which resulted in 208 lives and £160 000 of cargo being lost. At the time of the gale, the commanders of the ships were onshore to get the documentation for the fleet to leave for the Netherlands.


After a short stay in Batavia, the Rodenrijs departed for the Netherlands with a cargo of eastern luxury goods on 6 February 1737 and she arrived in Table Bay on 7 May.

The vessel remained at anchor in the bay while her and the rest of the fleet were resupplied for the final leg of the journey back to the Netherlands. On 21 May however, the violent north-westerly storm struck Table Bay, and one after the other the vessel of the return fleet ran ashore on the Castle side of the Salt River.

The Rodenrijs was able to ride out the storm for most of the day because her anchor cables were still in good condition. However, later that night the wind changed direction and the Rodenrijs drifted in a north-easterly direction. She ended up in the surf and was destroyed a little north of the Salt River mouth. All but 6 of the crew managed to get off safely using a makeshift raft built out of wooden parts, the topsails and the yard.

MasterJan van Heemsteede
Tonnage650 ton (325 last)


A survey permit was granted in 1989. A further permit to excavate was applied for in 1991, but this application was refused. The wreck was also subject to illegal salvage.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding the Rodenrijs regarding the ownership of the cannons and the correct identification of the wreck.

The material collection from this wreck is housed in the Iziko Museum.


  • DAS 7002.1.
  • 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    Dutch Shipwrecks in South African Waters: A Brief History of Sites, Stores and Archives [Unpublished].
  • Dijkman, A.E. (2019).
    Ramp van 21 mei 1737. Het verhaal van de grootste scheepsramp uit de VOC-geschiedenis. [Unpublished paper].
    Leiden University.
  • Renier Nooms Zeeman.
    Port View with Two Flute Ships.

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