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stepping stones of maritime history


The Zoetigheid was an outward-bound vessel wrecked with nine other vessels in the Bay after she broke adrift in a north-westerly gale on the night of 16/17 June. The vessel went ashore a little beyond the Castle and had broken up by dawn on the 17th. Tragically, 126 lives were lost when the Zoetigheid wrecked.

The gale of 17 June 1722 saw 10 vessels wrecked during a severe north-westerly gale in Table Bay, with 8 of these vessels belonging to Dutch authorities. This event saw one of the highest losses of life in the history of the Cape in a single event, with 660 casualties. Over £250,000 of goods were lost, which is a vast amount in today’s figures!


MasterAbraham van der Ceel
People on board150
Length130 feet (39.6 m)
Tonnage600 ton (300 last)


An English salvor by the name of John Lethbridge was engaged in 1727 to try and recover some of the losses experienced by the VOC. He was a former wool merchant who had invented a ‘diving machine’ which was essentially an airtight wooden barrel with a glass window and armholes which enabled a brave person to be sealed inside and lowered underwater for up to 30 minutes at a time. His method was most successful in the regions of the bay with calmer conditions. However, he did manage to salvage some of the specie of the Zoetigheid.


  • DAS 2485.1.
  • 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    Dutch Shipwrecks in South African Waters: A Brief History of Sites, Stores and Archives [Unpublished].
  • Reinier Nooms.
    Port View with Two Flute Ships.

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