The infamously tempestuous coastline of South Africa is littered with visible shipwrecks, but there are many more undiscovered wrecks lying on the seabed. In fact, globally, experts believe only as few as 1% of all shipwrecks have been traced. The search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 discovered two completely by accident.
Maritime archaeologist and historian Bruno Werz believes he has found one of the most significant South African wrecks of them all – that of the Dutch East India Company ship, the Haarlem, which foundered (sank) in Table Bay off Blouberg in 1647. Werz says the fate of the Haarlem, and the experiences of the crew, played a key role in the company establishing a refreshment station in the Cape which ultimately grew into Cape Town.
Gumtree SA’s Estelle Nagel says the online trading site has seen many different kinds of local shipwreck treasures posted for sale but she cautions divers and buyers that wreck sites have to be treated with respect both for those who died and for the heritage regulations that surround them: “You need the kind of expertise and authority that Dr Werz has before you can extract anything from a sea bed wreck site”
However, Nagel points out that the beaches are a happy hunting ground – a key part of Werz’s evidence about the Haarlem’s location came from artefacts like copper nails and iron found on the coastline to the south west of the landmark Dolphin Beach Hotel.
She suggests starting your research with a Gumtree purchase of copy of the book ‘WRECKED under the Green Point Light’ by John T. Dimond, which covers six shipwrecks in that one small part of the Cape coast alone: “Then buy yourself a second-hand Minelab Gold Monster 1000 Metal Detector and hit the beaches in search of historic treasure.
In the spirit of hunting for treasure, Gumtree has hidden R50 000 a weeks worth of daily cash prizes. Claim your treasure by solving the new riddle each week (found on Gumtree.co.za), which reveals a category that has an ad featuring the unhidden treasure logo, simply reply “The Treasure Is Mine” and you could win R10 000.