Cape Town – The African Institute for Marine and Underwater Research, Exploration and Education is set to release an important update in Project Haarlem, a research project that has been looking for the location of the sunken ship that led to the settlement of Cape Town.
Dr Bruno Werz is the head archaeologist on the project and has been poring over historical maps and documents from the area since 1989.
“The results of our work are very promising and exciting,” he said.
The Haarlem was a Dutch ship that ran aground in Table Bay in March 1647, and 62 of the crew members stayed in the area to try to save the cargo from the ship. The diary of one of the crew led the directors of the VOC to establish an official rest stop on the shores of Table Bay. This led to Jan van Riebeeck coming to the area to form the settlement that developed into the City of Cape Town.
Werz and his team have traced the ship’s history, paths and plans, to get a better idea of its resting place. They have used magnetometers – specialised metal detectors – to follow up viable leads.
The Haarlem is a critical part of South Africa’s and Cape Town’s history and yet it has never been recovered.
Werz sees the recovery of the ship as an opportunity to gain deeper insight into the early inhabitants of Cape Town. While the running aground of the Haarlem may have been an accident, the consequences of its early demise can be seen in South Africa’s dark history of colonialism and vibrant multiculturalism.
Werz’s team hope the work they have done and the progress they intend to show on Friday will introduce a new chapter in the city’s history.