Introduction to the Resolutions
of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope

Shipping along the Cape route

If there had been no shipping activities the Cape would not have been discovered and colonised. What becomes quite clear from the Resolutions is the continuous arrival and departure, a restless bustle when the fleet arrived, each of the ships carrying cargo, sailors and passengers, either as visitors or immigrants to the Cape . Ship names such as Standvastigheijd, Liefde, Gecroonde Leeuw, Patriot, Landscroon, Bartha Petronella, Wackerheijd, Held Wolthemade, Vlissingen , Tolsduijn and Admiraal de Ruijter become good acquaintances because one often reads about them when they arrive year after year at the Cape , all these particulars being noted in the Resolutions.

The Cape continued providing food, drinks and other goods to the Company’s fleets on their voyages to and from the East. Many ships belonging to other countries, of which England was a frequent visitor, also anchored at the Cape harbour. The captains of these vessels usually asked the Council of Policy’s permission to buy goods at the Cape . In spite of a ban on providing goods to ships that were not known to the authority, the Council of Policy in most cases granted the captains permission to buy meat and fresh produce from the burghers.

On 19 Augustus 1725 the tranquillity characterising life at the Cape was suddenly replaced by great excitement when an unidentified ship sailed into False Bay . Later it became clear that it was indeed the English contraband ship the Grooten Alexander. The Council immediately sent an ensign with 50 soldiers to Simon’s Bay. Two burgher divisions were also sent to Simon’s Bay and the Hottentots-Holland to prevent the ship’s crew coming ashore or taking refreshments on board. After a few days of high tension the ship set sail on the evening of 22 August and left for the open sea.

In 1727 the Lords Seventeen sent five English divers to the Cape to look for coins and other valuables in the shipwrecks in Table Bay and Saldanha Bay . Although a reasonable amount of coins and other cargo were salvaged, the operation was not very successful because the wrecks were partially covered by sand.

The Council was always willing to consider ways to ensure safer shipping. For example, Jacobus Moller and Jan de Heere were requested in 1732 to conduct a survey of Table Bay , Simon’s Bay and Saldanha Bay and draw new maps of the harbours. According to the officials’ report Simon’s Bay and Saldanha Bay had quite a number of shortcomings, while Table Bay was the best-suited harbour. In the early 1740s it was decided, however, that in wintertime all ships should rather anchor at Simon’s Bay instead of Table Bay . During the same period a jetty was built at Table Bay.

Many ships went aground, not only along the South African coastline but also in Table Bay . Others disappeared in storms at sea, only to reappear as pieces of wreckage on distant shores. Ships that were too old, battered by heavy seas and no longer fit to sail, were withdrawn from service and dismantled. Everything that could still be used was then sold at a “ publicque Vendutie” [public auction] and in this way the Company’s funds were augmented.


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