Archiver > SOUTH-AFRICA-EASTERN-CAPE > 2004-09 > 1094675739

From: "Becky Horne" <>
Subject: Shipwrecks in Algoa Bay
Date: Wed, 8 Sep 2004 22:42:56 +0200

Hi Folks

Please welcome Saul on board. Hope you are going to very happy with us. Saul is the webmaster of the South African Jewish website, as well as being an ex-PE guy. Also into ships and things, with a special interest in his old hometown. Looks like it's my night for shipwrecks guys :o)

>>In mid-July 1755, while the Cape of Storms is showing its muscle, a British ship bound for India, the 'Dodington', was battling a blistering gale in Algoa Bay. The captain thought they were well out at sea. Suddenly breakers were spotted dead ahead. It was the ragged edges of the notorious Chaos Islands. A splintering crash ended the journey of the 'Dodington'. In less than twenty minutes it sank.

Twenty-three seamen scrambled ashore and survived for seven months, on what is today known as the Bird Island. Algoa Bay, on the Southern African coast, has a number of islands. Jaheel, Brenton and St Croix are closer to the Swartkops River mouth. About 30 kilometres further east lays the Bird Island archipelago. Although well marked on old seafarer's charts, the flat islands are not easy to see and many boats have floundered here. The 'Dodington' was not the first. Since it went to its watery grave 39 more boats have sunk around here. These wrecks are now a favourite diving spot for relic hunters and historians who are still trying to solve some of the mysteries that lay beneath the waves.

Fresh meat was always a problem on these long voyages. So, rabbits were released on a few strategically positioned islands along the African coastline. These became convenient "pantries" for passing ships. At least for a while the sailors that rounded the Cape of Storms had fresh rabbit meat. But spotting these flat little islands in inclement weather was apparently not that easy. Hence the name, Chaos Islands, on the old seafarers' maps. Today, a strategically placed lighthouse warns ships of impending disaster. >>

<<The wreck of the Grosvenor in 1782 caused a sensation in the British press at the time. The wreck of another East Indiaman, the Dodington, at Algoa Bay, 27 years earlier. These castaways endured seven months on uninhabited Bird Island nearly 10km offshore while they built a makeshift boat to sail to Madagascar and safety. This wreck was the result of miscalculating their position and turning northwards too soon. In 1780, just two years before the 'Grosvenor' tragedy, a handbook published for the guidance of East India Company mariners used the fate of the 'Dodington' as a stern warning. So why did the 'Grosvenor' meet the same doom?

For many reasons. The ship was delayed in departing from the Bay of Bengal until it was dangerously late in the season. Its companion ship never arrived, itself wrecked. Human negligence played its own role, as did the fatal decision to walk south to the Cape instead of north to Delagoa Bay along a more hospitable shoreline, a tactic which had saved previous castaways.>>

>>News from week ending June 11, 1904
The large cannon, which was recovered from the transport 'Dodington;, which was wrecked more than a century and a half ago on the rock which has since been named the Doddington Rock was brought over by the Sir Frederick (Captain Fred ANDERSON) on Thursday to the North Jetty. Visitors to Bird Island will remember the ancient cannon which was mounted in front of the entrance to the lighthouse. It is intended to place the gun, which is between 14 and 15 cwt., in the museum.

In connection with the old gun we publish the following letter written by Mr Thomas FAIRBRIDGE, of Cape Town, to Captain YOUNG, late Harbour Master, regarding the wreck of the 'Doddington', and the naming of the rock, which is rather interesting.

Cape Town, November 20, 1891.

My Dear Captain YOUNG, I have just acquired a book of some interest to Cape people especially to Bayonians. It is the account of the wreck of the 'Doddington;, in 1755, on the Bird Islands. It is written by Mr WEBB, the third mate, and contains a rude chart, or "draught" as he calls it - of which I enclose a rough but true copy, and I want you to oblige me with some information hereon. I am under the impression that it is the general idea that 'Doddington' (or 'Dodington', as she is called on the draught) was wrecked not on the Bird Island itself, but on a distant rock, and in modern charts there is a "Doddington Rock" lying to the westward of the group.

But according to the draught, she just struck rock on the Bird Island itself, whereas the account says "she went to pieces" immediately afterwards, and only 23 of the 270 souls escaped alive. The body of Mrs. CODD, wife of the second mate, was washed ashore and "buried in the dung of the birds" and a pile of stones raised over it; but all of this, I imagine, must have long ago disappeared. I shall be glad if you can clear up the Doddington Rock point.

The survivors remained on the island, where, the carpenter being saved, they managed to build a small vessel out of the remains of the wreck, and to provision it with some of the stores saved, and made their way to Delagoa Bay, where they arrived on April 26, 1756, and thence found their way to Madras. The 'Doddington; was wrecked on the outward bound voyage, and they managed to save the mails and a box of treasure.
Yours truly, Thomas A. FAIRBRIDGE>>

Best wishes

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