The Hunt for the Haarlem

By 21st August 2019 September 10th, 2019 Events

It may not be on Durban’s shores, but the recent development in the hunt for the shipwrecked Dutch East India Company vessel, the Haarlem, is so exciting, that we felt it was definitely worth a mention!

Dr Bruno Werz
Dr Bruno Werz

Regardless of the precise location, the events surrounding the sinking of the Haarlem really are of national importance, with Dr Bruno Werz attributing the establishment of Cape Town, and South Africa’s multi-racial ‘rainbow’ nation to this one historic event.

When the Haarlem sunk in 1647, 62 men were left behind, and the remainder of the crew were repatriated on other ships. The men from the Haarlem came into contact with local people, and reported their favourable experiences back to their superiors. It was because of these reports that the Dutch East India Company decided, in 1652, to establish a much-needed stopover for ships in what is now Cape Town. This station, which became known as the “Tavern of the Seas”, would later develop into the City of Cape Town. 

A map marking the wreck site
A map marking the wreck site

According to Werz, an ex-Dutch navy diver, maritime archaeologist and historian who has dedicated the past 30 years to the hunt for the remains of the Haarlem, there is a 95% chance that the shipwreck lies just a stone’s throw from the Dolphin Beach Hotel in Bloubergstrand, in water depths of less than four metres.

Test excavations and data show that there is a structure about three to four metres below the seabed that fits the description of what one would expect to find as the remains of the Haarlem”, Dr Bruno Werz.

An excavator pictured at Bloubergstrand
An excavator pictured at Bloubergstrand

To date the Haarlem Project has been wholly supported by sponsors and volunteers, and additional funding is now needed for further excavations. Werz hopes that the international attention that such an important dig would garner, will help to raise these much needed funds.

Watch this space for future developments!

Images courtesy of www.thescubanews.com, zakenblad.nl, www.capetownetc.com and ewn.co.za

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