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African Institute for Marine and Underwater Research, Exploration and Education

The ‘Haarlem’ Project.

After the formal introduction of this project to the media in mid-2016, a geophysical survey was conducted towards the end of that year in search of the wreck. This was kindly sponsored by Mr. Billy Steenkamp of Broadband Geophysical Pty Ltd. The results are very exciting and, as a result, a start was made in November 2016 with an application process in order to conduct test excavations.  This may still take a while, as approval from various local and national government departments is required. These include, but are not limited to: the Department of Customs and Excise; different branches of the Department of Environment; different branches of the City of Cape Town; Heritage Western Cape and the SA Heritage Resources Agency. It is hoped that all necessary permits can be obtained by the end of this year. WSP Coastal Engineers is currently working on plans for the test excavations. Formal support from other sponsors is expected shortly.

The ‘Haarlem’ Project already received a lot of publicity in both South Africa and the Netherlands. Major articles appeared in various regional and national newspapers. Dutch television covered the geophysical survey in the first part of the documentary series ‘Goede Hoop’ that was broadcasted in March 2017. An article appeared in The Dutch East India Company book that was published by the Dutch National Archives as part of a major exhibition and an article will be published in the South African Journal of Science in September.

The book The Haarlem shipwreck (1647): the origins of Cape Town (Unisa Press) by AIMURE’s CEO is currently in print and will appear the beginning of September.


Hayley and Mac busy planning a location for further investigation
As part of the AIMURE’s long-term research project Operation Zembe, the Institute’s Dive Unit organized an expedition in and around False Bay, Cape Town. During the period 12 to 15 May, several dives were undertaken off Cape Hangklip. This offered an opportunity to test the new camera equipment and to observe local underwater conditions.

Mike, Alton and Ozzie enjoying the ‘après-dive’
The area off Cape Hangklip is of great interest to our research. During periods of lower sea level stands, it most probably served as a portal for migrating animals and hominids, as the adjacent Hottentots Hollands mountain range formed a substantial barrier. Future underwater searches may thus hopefully result in finding evidence for this.

Roshan Bhurtha (l.) and Professor Rüther recording one of the stone tools by means of digital photography.

Our team was joined by Professor John Compton, from UCT’s Department of Geology, Hayley Cawthra and ‘Big Mac’ from the Council for Geoscience. During these few days, the scientists provided most interesting information. John also took the group around the area, pointing out relevant geological features. Currently, he, Hayley and Bruno are working on a scientific paper that will probably be published as a chapter in a book. We were also visited by a National Geographic photographer who recorded some of the Dive Unit’s activities.

The stone tools that were found in Table Bay are currently being recorded in great detail by Professor Heinz Rüther and Mr.Roshan Bhurtha of the Zamani Project. With the assistance of the most sophisticated equipment and software available, extremely accurate three-dimensional models are being created that will also allow for the production of replica’s.

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