Shipwrecks Plettenberg Bay
Shipwrecks are tragic happenings when they occur and yet they imbue us with an element of wonder and mystery. Our imaginations run rampant wondering how did this shipwreck happen? and what happened to those that were shipwrecked? Shipwrecks conjure up images of buried treasure and of days gone bye ... lets take a closer look at those that inhabit Plettenberg Bay
A shipwreck suddenly appeared on Central Beach after being exposed by a wild storm in 2015 (see above). The storm removed meters of sand from the beach and uncovered the ribs of an old wooden ship of considerable size. Our curiosity was piqued, Plett was abuzz. Nobody knew which ship this could be, or where she came from, and what had happened. So we decided to do some research and try to find out more about the ships that have met their watery graves in and around Plettenberg Bay. In 2020 the wreck was again uncovered after a storm.
If you have a little pirate or sailor blood in you, or if you dream of discovering sunken treasures, you might just be interested in reading a little more about the ships that have been wrecked in our beautiful bay.
We have listed these ships as we have discovered them, keeping the list ordered, we have listed the wrecks alphabetically by the ships given names.
|Ships Wrecks Name||Ship Type||Weight||Captain||Date wrecked||Place|
|British Schooner||86 tons||Capt. J. Bruce||9th Sep. 1845||Plettenberg Bay|
|Cape Wooden Schooner||94 tons||Capt. Needham||28th May 1882||Plettenberg Bay|
MFV Athina (Rosa Vlassi, Galaxidi)
|Greek Stern Factory Trawler||814 tons||Capt. John Katsiaris||1st August 1967||Robberg Beach, Plettenberg Bay|
|Cape wooden brigantine||196 tons||Capt. G. Love||28th May 1882||Plettenberg Bay|
|Brigantine||158 tons||Capt. J. Caithness||4th Dec. 1851||Plettenberg Bay|
|British Brig||167 tons||Capt. Newbold||14th Jul 1836||Plettenberg Bay|
George Henry Harrison
|Schooner||136 tons||Capt. J. Shannon||15th Sep. 1851||Plettenberg Bay|
|Norwegian barque||Capt. Martuisen||17th Oct. 1901||between Noetze and Robberg.|
|Norwegian brig||205 tons||Capt. Berentsen||29th Nov. 1872||Beacon Isle, Plettenberg Bay|
|Dutch VOC flute||908 tons||25th Aug. 1788||near Robberg, Plettenberg Bay|
|SA fishing vessel||Capt. Horatio Gome||28th April 2014||Plettenberg Bay|
|French three-masted schooner||145 tons||1880||Noetzie River mouth|
|Brig||Capt. W. Dolly||24th Aug. 1844||Plettenberg Bay|
|Portuguese East-Indiaman||est. 2000 tons||Fernão Lobo de Meneses||July 1630||Piesang River Mouth, Plettenberg Bay|
|Schooner||142 tons||Capt. J. Lewis||13th Sep. 1851||Plettenberg Bay|
|British wooden barque||261 tons||Capt. E.R. Kersey||28th Sep. 1857||Plettenberg Bay|
|Schooner||121 tons||Capt. J.F. Sewell||8th August 1847||Plettenberg Bay|
|British brigantine||Capt. Brown||25th March 1874||Plettenberg Bay|
|British wooden brig||198 tons||Capt. J. Mc Green||11th July 1857||Plettenberg Bay|
1.Tapson, W. 1963. Timber and Tides: The Story of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. General Litho.
2.Turner, M. 1989. Shipwrecks & Salvage in South Africa. New Holland Publishers.
What do we know about these ship wrecks ... well, in August 2015, very little was known!
Other than the São Gonçalo and the Athina, no-one knew much about the other shipwrecks at all. We decided to recify this, and as we research and discover more information on the shipwrecks in Plett, we will post up any information we find on them here. We are going to list the shipwrecks in order of centuries.
The São Gonçalo - wrecked 1630
|The São Gonçalo was a huge ship, an unwieldy Portuguese East-Indiaman, overladen, as they often were in those days, carrying spices, mainly pepper (which was one of the causes of her demise, as the peppercorns clogged her water pumps), porcelain and other goods back to Portugal for trade. The tragedy of her shipwreck is quite well documented as there were about 100 survivors and they lived on the shores of Pletts beaches in the year 1630 for about a year. The information we have gleaned about this ship and its people, an interesting excerpt from one of these marooned people, as well as relics from this wreck that were discovered by the Jerling family on their beach front property in 1980 we have documented in more details on our page on Pletts history. The relics discovered in 1980 by the Jerlings are now housed at Pletts municipality and you are able to go and see them.|
Maria - wrecked 1788
Maria was a VOC Dutch flute type ship that ran aground near Robberg and went to pieces on the 25th August 1788. She was of a decent size weighing in at 908 tons. Here is an interesting account and extract of a sailor and The Maria
Hermanus Hunels, a Dutch sailor, had been forced to leave his ship and remain at the Cape when he became ill. He was later placed on the frigate Meermin, which was the first ship to transport timber from Plettenberg Bay to the Cape in August 1788. When the ship returned to Plettenberg Bay that same month, a Dutch East India ship, the Maria, en route home from Ceylon, was totally wrecked in the Bay. Hunels was left ashore and appointed to attend to the goods saved from the wreck of the Maria.
Reference - Metelerkamp D.P. 2008. Still Waters and Green Pastures, The Ganzvlei Story
Dorothys - wrecked 1836
The Dorothys, was a British wooden-hulled brig weighing 167 tons. Her Captain was Capt. Newbold. She was wrecked on the 14th July 1836. She was wrecked near to Central Beach due to heavy swell which pushed her ashore at the time. (could she be our mystery shipwreck?)
Prince Albert - wrecked 1844
The Prince Albert, a wooden-hulled brig wrecked during a south-easterly gale in Plettenberg Bay
Swiftsure - wrecked 1847
The Swiftsure was a schooner and she weighed 121 tons, she grounded in Plettenberg Bay on the 8th August 1847. Her captain was Captain J F Sewell. (could she be our mystery shipwreck?)
Captain JF Sewell became Plettenberg Bays harbour-master from 1875-1897. The period between the two events was a period of 28 years and we wonder what he did in these in-between years.
1947, Swiftsure, her last recorded trips before her wrecking;
January 1847, Intelligence records of Table Bay. Jan 9th, 22nd January, Swiftsure, schooner, 121, J F Sewell, from Knysna to Table Bay, Feb 10th.
There is an interesting account of her in this record found of
her in the Shipping Intelligence records dated April 1847 of Table Bay.
This record and the one from Algoa Bay (below) may be the records
relating to her last voyage.
20th April 1847, Swiftsure, Schooner, From Knysna - 16th instant to this port, departure May 22nd.
Algoa Bay Ships Intelligence records of 1847. It is recorded there that Swiftsure arrived in Algoa Bay on the 26th May 1847 - from Table Bay - it is recorded as her 20th instant to this port - departure June 9th, 1947. (this is just two months before her wrecking).
Diadem - wrecked 1851
Diadem, this sailing brig wrecked in Plett in a strong south-easterly gale.
George Henry Harrison - wrecked 1851
George Henry Harrison, this wooden sailing schooner wrecked herself on the rocks in Plett
William Bayley - wrecked 1857
The William Bayley was a British brig, she weighed 198 tons and was built in 1840 at Ipswich. She ran ashore, and was wrecked on the 11th July, 1857 in Plettenberg Bay. This happened after her cargo caught fire by spontaneous combustion while on a voyage from Algoa Bay to London, Captained by Capt. McGreen. Her cargo was varied.
Interesting to note here that her name is that of famous shipbuilders that were based in Ipswich and she was most probably one of their personal trade vessels. (personal deduction)
In 1818 Jabez Bayley, a member of the famous Ipswich shipbuilding family whose businesses had until now been concentrated on the other side of the river, leased two shipyards in St Clément's; seemingly in an effort to monopolise the shipbuilding industry in Ipswich. These yards were in need of repair, however, & Bayley soon found himself in financial difficulties, which culminated with him being declared bankrupt in 1825. He later resumed business here, & although most of the Bayley family’s ships were built at the St Peter’s, Nova Scotia & Halifax yards, some were launched from St Clement’s, such as the Indiaman Childe Harold of 400 tons. At the time of his bankruptcy, a relative of Jabez, William Bayley, took over the lease of two yards in St Clément's & this business began to flourish during the 1830s.
you can read about this famous shipbuilding family here.
Susan Crisp - wrecked 1857*
Susan Crisp has conflicting dates of wreckage and her place of demise. If these records are of the same ship it was recorded in 1851 that the Susan Crisp, a wooden sailing barque was recorded in one record as having grounded at Cape St Francis in the Eastern Cape and yet again in 1857 it is recorded that Susan Crisp, a wooden sailing barque wrecked in a south-easterly gale in Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape. (Probably the same vessel as the above with conflicting dates of wreckage). * Further research is needed.
Magneten - wrecked 1872
|The Magneten, was a Norwegian Brig built in 1840 in the Arendal shipyard, Norway. A wooden two masted sailing ship (brig) weighing 258 tons. Her purpose is documented as transportation. The Magneten was driven ashore during a South East gale or storm and totally wrecked near the Beacon Isle on the 29th November 1872. Magenten's dimensions are; Length: 84'5 Beam: 24,5'and her draft: 15.5'. Her location is documented as: 34° 03.40S, 23° 22.80E (could she be our mystery shipwreck?) Her Captain at the time of her demise was Capt. Berentsen.|
Louis Alfred - wrecked 1875
In 1875 the Louis Alfred, a sailing brigantine grounded in Plettenberg Bay.
Christina - wrecked 1882
The Christina was a wooden British-South African coasting schooner that ran aground after striking a blinder, which resulted in a leak at her starboard bilge. She is recorded as having weighed 196 tons and she was captained by Capt. G. Love at the time of her wrecking, which happened on the 28th May in the year 1882.
Agnes - wrecked 1882
The Agnes, a wooden sailing schooner ran ashore after her cables parted in heavy seas in Plettenberg Bay. She weighed 94 tons and was captained by Capt. Needham at the time of her wrecking, which occurred on the 28th May 1882.
MHV Athina - wrecked 1967
MHV Athina, was ordered in 1939 and built by George Philip & Sons Ltd. (Dartmouth, U.K.) she was launched on the 18th January 1941. She was originally built as the Royal Navy Flower class corvette, called "Penstemon" (K61). She was sold in 1946, renamed "Galaxidi", she was sold again in 1951 and renamed "Rosa Vlassis", then lastly sold again in 1960 and renamed "Athina".
The wreck of Athina can sometimes still be seen from Robberg when the seas are clear. The shipwreck is a popular dive site for divers today. Her rusty steel hull is now an artificial reef providing a home for young sea life. The Athina sank on the 1st August 1967 after colliding with a large rock named "Whale Rock", which lies at the tip of Robberg Nature Reserve. The fishing trawler was on its way back home to Greece. She had to take the long route home, a trip around the South African coast, as the Suez canal was closed because of a war raging in the area at the time. When she sank her cargo of tuna was lost but the crew were all saved and made it to Robberg Beach. Her bow lies about three meters below the surface and her stern at a depth of six meters. If you are interested in diving this wreck you can find out more about doing this at the dive shop based in the Beacon Island hotel.
MFV Starfish - wrecked 2014
The MFV Starfish was a 23 meter Cape Town
registered long-liner fishing vessel. The South African fishing factory trawler vessel
sent out a distress signal off the southern coast of South
Africa and foundered on Saturday the 26th April 2014.
The vessel was taking on water faster than the bilges could pump. The position of sinking was 65 nautical miles off Plettenberg Bay. The 20 crew were rescued from life rafts by the Navios Northern Star a bulk carrier, sailing deep sea past South Africa, whose last Port of call was Latvia and was sailing, fully laden, to Singapore. The Navios Northern Star had interrupted her voyage by an estimated 400 nautical miles to divert to effect the rescue operation, and taking all 20 casualty crew to Port Elizabeth after responding to the Mayday distress call sent out by FV Starfish at 11h16 on 26th (Saturday, 26th April). When the rescue ship reached them only the bow of the Starfish was still visible. The men were in life jackets in a life boat. No lives were lost. The owner and Captain of the Starfish was Horatio Gomes, of Edgemead, Cape Town, South Africa. Captain Gomes said that he suspected that one of the planks of the hull had lifted as they did not hit anything. She was a wooden ship, built in 1963, powered by diesel engines by ship builders Louw and Halvorsen in Cape Town.
If you have information on any of these shipwrecks and would like to contribute to the content of this page, we would love to hear from you, please drop us an email here.
- Shipwrecks of Plettenberg Bay