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stepping stones of maritime history


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, a violent north-westerly storm struck Table Bay and, one after the other, the vessels 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.


The map from 1731 shows the stranded ships around the Soute River. The numbers 1-9 are the (time) order of the wreckage.
1: Iepenrode 2: Goudriaan 3: Flora 4: Paddenburg 5: Westerwijk 6: De Buis 7: Duinbeek 8: Rodenrijs 9: Brigantijn Victoria 10: De Papenburg remained unscathed.
A: Good Hope Castle with the 't Hoofd jetty.


MasterJan van Heemsteede
Length130 Amsterdam feet (36.8 m)
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.

A Cannon from the Rodenrijs, shown in situ here.


  • Dagregister kaap 21-5-1737.
  • 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    Dutch Shipwrecks in South African Waters: A Brief History of Sites, Stores and Archives [Unpublished].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 [Unpublished paper].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.

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