Sea Ports and Sea Power: South African Maritime Cultural Landscapes and Shipwreck Case Studies- SHA Conference

Posted on October 16, 2015


Seattle 2015 LogoThis is another session that was filmed at the 2015 SHA conference. This is a good one for anyone interested in Underwater/Maritime Archaeology.

Session Abstract: The Cape Peninsula, at the southern tip of Africa, is situated on a strategic sea route and crossroad between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Simons Bay and Table Bay, two crucially important historic seaports, served simultaneously as international entrepots, havens of refuge, and as settings for colonial and imperial warfare. Research and analysis of archaeological and historical case studies include early nineteenth-century British and Dutch war ships, a beached US Liberty ship, complex wharf infrastructure at Table Bay Harbor, and the naval facilities of Simons Bay. Theoretical frameworks pertinent to this session are maritime cultural landscapes, mercantilism, sea power, and world system theory. Investigations will also address secondary issues such as cultural resource management and current stakeholder perceptions, challenges and solutions to interpreting and showcasing maritime heritage in the study area.

The Bay of Storms and Tavern of the Seas: Risk and the Maritime Cultural Landscape of the Harbour at Cape Town

Jeremy Borrelli

South Africa’s connection with the sea is most prevalent in its founding harbor, Cape Town. Until the opening of the Suez Canal, the passage by the Cape of Good Hope represented the most important oceanic route to the East. The passage, however, quickly became known for unpredictable storms that devastated shipping in locations such as Table Bay. This paper examines the way the nineteenth century British government managed the risks associated with using Table Bay as a harbor of refuge and how this is reflected in the archaeological record. The role that risk played in the development and use of Cape Town can be demonstrated by applying historical, economic and geo-spatial analyses within a maritime cultural landscape framework that correlates behavioral responses to both natural and cultural phenomena.

Technology and Empire: A Comparative Analysis of British and Dutch Maritime Technologies during the Napoleonic Era

Ivor R. Mollema

A study of the Dutch vessel Bato (1806) and British vessel Brunswick (1805) wrecked in Simons Bay, South Africa presents a unique opportunity to compare and analyse the maritime shipbuilding technologies available to these two powerful seafaring nations during the Napoleonic Era (1792-1815). Preliminary research of the material culture record yields data about British and Dutch access and utilization of specific shipbuilding timbers, iron knees, metal sheathings, and variety of fastenings. Primary source documents like the log books, journals, ledgers, naval treatises and eye witness accounts contain pertinent information about the history of Bato and its role as a Dutch warship at the end of the Golden Age, an under-represented historical and archaeological theme.

Sandalwood and Starfish: A Study of the Shipwreck Brunswick (1805) and Site Formation Processes in Simons Bay

Nathaniel R King and Ivor R. Mollema

Brunswick was constructed in 1792 in London as a 1,244 ton East Indiaman with 30 guns. The ship was on its sixth voyage to the Far East when it was captured by a French frigate brought into Cape Town and wrecked in 1805. NAS Project Sandalwood investigations of the shipwreck site in 1994 and 1995, followed up by University of Cape Town research in 2013 yielded information the maritime environment of the site revealing that while the metal on the shipwreck was stable, timbers were damaged by mussels and starfish. Interdisciplinary research teams continued to gather baseline data on the flora and fauna on Brunswick and to monitor the effects of natural processes on shipwrecks. In 2014 an East Carolina University team compiled further historical and environmental data in the Bay with specific attention to sedimentary processes, bathymetry, and marine populations building on the foundations of past research.

The Cape Point Maritime Cultural Landscape: Lighthouses, Shipwrecks, Baboons and Heritage Tourism in South Africa

Lynn Harris

Since 2004, the Cape Point Nature Reserve has been part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The spectacular reserve has an abundance of wildlife, historic shipwrecks and a lighthouse. A shipwreck hiking trail is a popular feature. Heritage visitation combined with nature tourism is a key component in South African economic growth today. The Cape Point area is a good example of showcasing a global maritime cultural landscape in a broader context and this study explores the shipwreck legacies with an emphasis on educational and management practices.

Thomas T. Tucker: A Beached US Liberty Ship in Cape Point Nature Reserve, South Africa

Nathaniel R King

Thomas Tucker, a US Liberty ship operated by the Merchants and Miners Company on behalf of the US Maritime Commission, was part of the 42-ship convoy carrying material to the African Front during World War II. The ship was reported lost in action – torpedoed at Cape Point. The cargo included 25 Sherman tanks, 16 tank cars, 200 motor vehicles, and barbed wire. This disarticulated beach shipwreck site provides an ideal educational opportunity for students to conduct basic pre-disturbance archaeological recording, geo-referencing and digital mapping. This case study analyzes site formation processes on the site, examines the concept of in situ preservation of beached wrecks in South Africa, and discusses Liberty ships as part of a global maritime heritage.


Posted in: Uncategorized