"The Colebrooke 1778"
The Colebrooke is an English East Indiaman of 739 tons. She is 137 feet long, 35 feet wide and had 3 decks. She was built by Perryard and launched in 1770. The Captain was Arthur Morris and she was on her third voyage. There were 212 people on board, of which 7 drowned in the surf while trying to reach the shore.
On the 6th January 1778 the Colebrooke loaded a large number of lead ingots and some ships stores at Blackwall in the East India docks on the Thames. On the 3rd February she moved to Gravesend to load shot, copper, stores, gunpowder, wine, guns, corn, livestock and military recruits. On the 8th March she set sail from the Downs in the company of three other vessels, the warship Asia , as well as the East Indiamen Gatton and the Royal Admiral , to call at Madeira for 43 pipes of wine. On the 26th May she sailed from Madeira for Bombay and China.
Three months later, on the 24th August, at 11h.30, on rounding Cape Point, the Colebrooke struck hard upon a submerged reef, today known as Anvil Rock. She took water rapidly and at 16h.00 the vessel ran ashore in Kogel Bay. The crew tried to jettison the cannons but could not do so because they could not open the ports. She swung around with the bows facing out to sea. Seven people drowned in the surf when their pinnace capsized on trying to reach the shore. Only the next day were the remaining people taken off. The vessel broke up on the sixth day and no cargo was saved.
In 1984, 206 years later, the Colebrooke was discovered by the combined efforts of Aqua Exploration and Oceanic Recovery groups. The main clues as to her whereabouts came in the form of a series of photographs Charles obtained while doing research in the Dutch Archives, of various charts showing the wreck. With the use of a magnetometer they set out for the calculated bay and within the hour they got a strong reading. On entering the water, all they saw was sand, but after searching around for awhile, one of the divers eventually found a small portion of an anchor sticking out above the sand.
Aqua Exploration had previously worked on sand covered sites such as the Johanna, Le Centaur, Willem de Swyger, Johanna Wagner and others in Table Bay, for which a special blower/propwash was designed for the removal of sand overburden.
Placing the Blower over the anchor, they soon uncovered an area exposing copper plates, lead ingots, barrels of gunpowder, cannon balls, broken wine bottles etc. Identifying and dating these artefacts was certain proof that they had found the wreck of the Colebrooke .
Aqua Exploration hold a magnificent collection of slides and photographs taken from the day of discovery to date. These slides and photographs were taken by Charles and Erik Lombard.
During 1993 Aqua Exploration returned to the Colebrooke and with the use of the Blower, they opened up some unique sights like coiled rope, complete wine bottles packed in the remains of a basket, complete snuff bottles and complete barrels of gunpowder, with the English East India Company markings on their lids. (The wine and snuff bottles are available to the public for purchasing and can be viewed on the list of FRAMED ARTEFACT DISPLAY page).
Again in 1996, Charles returned to the Colebrooke site with his wife and partner Karen, and together they removed a large amount of copper sheets, plates and finger ingots as well as lead bars. Interesting artefacts found were a brass and wooden surgeon's amputation saw, brass chandeliers, brass pistol, a double ended wooden pulley block, musket mould and a leather shoe.
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Charles Shapiro cc T/A "Aqua Exploration"
South African Historical Wreck Society
+27 (0) 82 086 5937