"The Von Mollendorf Treasure"
"South African Beachcomber" by Lawrence G. Green
"Joseph Wilhelm von Mollendorf, son of a Prussian field marshal, came to South Africa towards the end of the eighteenth century. He transshipped at Cape Town, but the vessel, which carried him round the coast, has not been identified with certainty. It may have been the Dutch East India ship Maria , which put into Plettenburg Bay in 1788 with her crew suffering from scurvy. A southeast gale drove her away from the anchorage, and she was wrecked farther along the coast.
About the man Von Mollendorf there is no doubt at all. His treasure may have become exaggerated with the years, but his descendants believe that he had the equivalent of many thousands of pounds in gold coin and jewels in his iron strong-box. When the ship went down he made a raft, placed his strong-box on it and drifted hopefully towards the entrance of the bay now known as Ballot's Bay.
Ballot's Bay is a rocky cove with a narrow entrance partly barred by a submerged reef. The sea breaks heavily on the reef at times, but there are calm days when fishing boats can use the entrance in safety. According to legend, Von Mollendorf lost his box on the reef. He was able to save his life, but his arm was shattered and had to be amputated.
For weeks after his recovery Von Mollendorf haunted the little bay, mourning over his lost wealth. Local farmers heard his tale and tried to help him. In calm weather they could see the iron box wedged between two boulders about fifteen feet below the surface: but they were unable to raise it.
Von Mollendorf never became resigned to his loss. He married an Afrikaans girl on the farm Kommandokraal in the Oudtshoorn district; and often he took his children to the little bay and told them of the wealth that would be theirs if only he could reach the box. But every attempt failed.
Many people declare that they have seen Von Mollendorf's box. Mr. Edward Robertson of Sandkraal farm, in the neighbourhood, has stated that one salvage party rigged a cable across the entrance to Ballot's Bay and sent a diver down. The diver hoped to steady himself with the aid of a rope and pulley running on the cable, but the current was too strong and the attempt was abandoned.
Ballot's Bay supported a fishing settlement years ago. It is a great place for Geelbek, but the graves and the ruined cottages tell a grim tale of boats that capsized in the surf and families who decided that the risk was not worth while.
Some of those fisherman will tell you that Von Mollendorf's box is still there, and that Ballot's Bay will never give up its treasure."
Back to Shipwrecks and Excavations.
Charles Shapiro cc T/A "Aqua Exploration"
South African Historical Wreck Society
+27 (0) 82 086 5937