When on 25 March 1647 the VOC ship Haarlem stranded in Table Bay, nobody expected that this incident would
become the catalyst that created one of the roots of current multiracial and multicultural South African society.1 Of
the ship’s crew, 58 were repatriated soon after stranding, but 62 men stayed behind to try and salvage as much
of the cargo as possible. During their sojourn, the men from Haarlem came into contact with indigenous people.
Upon returning to the Netherlands, the crew reported favourably of their experiences. As a result, VOC management
decided to establish a much-needed stopover for its ships that later developed into the City of Cape Town. Although
no conclusive physical evidence of the wreck has yet been obtained, the multidisciplinary approach followed in an
effort to locate the wreck of the Haarlem is reported here.
The basis is provided by historical information that is contained in archival documentation. Of particular importance
are contemporary eyewitness accounts, as contained in part of a journal that was kept by the junior merchant from
the Haarlem, Leendert Jansz, and associated correspondence.2,3 Jansz was put in charge of the salvage attempts
that followed the wrecking. Additional information could be abstracted from a report by commissioners who visited
the wreck during the course of 1647; details provided by the commander of the fleet that repatriated the remainder
of the crew in 1648; accounts by the first commander of the settlement at the Cape, Jan van Riebeeck; as well as
a contemporary published description of the Cape of Good Hope.