"The Britannia 1826"
The discovery of the Britannia was accomplished by husband and wife team, Charles and Karen Shapiro (Aqua Exploration) and assisted by Britannia Bay locals, Anton Kriel and Anet McLeod.
The Britannia wrecked on the 22nd October 1826 on her outward bound voyage from England to Madeira, Table Bay, Mauritius and India.
The Captain was William Bouchier. The Britannia was a ship of 460 tons, carrying passengers and a cargo of copper, Madeira wines, Hodgson's ale and Cognac brandy. She struck an uncharted reef (today known as Britannia reef), off St. Helena Bay on Sunday the 22nd October 1826. After the ship struck, Captain Bouchier immediately put her about and made sail for the land, where he succeeded in running her ashore in St. Helena Bay (this part of the bay is today known as Britannia Bay). The 16 passengers were all landed in safety.
They began their search for the Britannia in February 1997. In April they got a positive magnetometer reading in 2.5 metres of water in the surf zone on the more exposed side of Britannia Bay. They however, only managed to open and positively identify the sand covered site almost a year later in 1998, due to bad weather and dangerous sea conditions.
The remains of the wreck and cargo were very well preserved under the sand. Complete wooden barrels of various sizes, hundreds of bottles and jars were lying on the well preserved hull planking. Many of the barrels, bottles and jars still contained their original contents. A wagon's axle and wooden spoked wheels lie upside down amongst some of these artefacts. A large amount of coal cargo was located towards the bows of the wreck.
They recovered 113 different types of artefacts off the wreck. These artefacts consisted of various bottles of wine, ale, beer, cognac, black ink, olives, capers, medicines and various stoneware jars containing jellies, jams, pickled fish and other preservatives. Other artefacts found were wine glasses, porcelain crockery, a teapot, teacup, wooden pulley block, material, and cutlery parts. They also recovered some copper sheeting, lead ingots and found a few pieces of complete blue, white and gold "Stone China" porcelain. Many of the above artefacts have been made available to the public for purchasing and can be viewed on the list of FRAMED ARTEFACT DISPLAY
Back to Shipwrecks and Excavations.
Charles Shapiro cc T/A "Aqua Exploration"
South African Historical Wreck Society
+27 (0) 82 086 5937