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stepping stones of maritime history


The Snelheijd was involved in the Battle of Saldanha. Just prior to the battle, the Dutch retour fleet was hiding in Saldanha Bay and the Snelheijd was stationed in a remote part of the Bay, carrying the sails of the other Dutch vessels.

If she was captured, the Snelheijd was to be fired and scuttled to stop the sails necessary for operating the rest of the fleet from falling into British hands. When the British entered the Bay, these plans failed, however, and the Snelheijd was abandoned in a poor condition.

The Battle of Saldanha saw the VOC lose 6 East Indiamen as well as their cargoes and a number of smaller vessels as a result of a brief and decisive skirmish with the English fleet.

This heavy loss likely contributed to the eventual bankruptcy of the VOC in 1796.

The Snelheijd spent a further two years lying unused at Saldanha before being towed to the Cape to be broken up. The Snelheijd wrecked on this journey when the tow rope snapped between Dassen Island and the mainland.



The site known as the "Swemgat Wreck" is close to the location where the Snelheijd is assumed to have wrecked. However, no formal attempt has yet been made to link the Snelheijd to this wreck site.


  • 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    Dutch Shipwrecks in South African Waters: A Brief History of Sites, Stores and Archives [Unpublished].
  • SAHRA Database.
  • Gribble, J. & Athiros, G. (2008).
    Tales of Shipwrecks at the Cape of Storms.
  • Gerrit Groenewegen.

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