Wreck of the Grosvenor
Did you know?
Many other castaways along the Wild Coast were welcomed and integrated into the local tribes.
On the night of August 3, 1782, an English East Indiaman ship called the Grosvenor approached the Wild Coast, heading for a rocky spot nearly 50km north of Port St Johns.
On land, the cattle owners living along the coast had been burning their winter grasslands to stimulate summer growth.
Through the spray and bad weather, these fires were spotted in the early hours of the next morning as ‘lights in the air’. And because Captain John Coxon believed the Grosvenor to be at least 300km out to sea, he reckoned them to be ‘something similar to the Northern Lights’ and the ill-fated ship continued on its course into the rugged, rocky coastline of south-eastern Africa.
Land was spotted just before dawn, and the captain eventually gave the orders to turn the ship about – but it was too late. The Grosvenor hit an outer reef, about 400m from the beach.
Of the 150 crew and passengers, 123 people reached the beach alive. The story of the survivors of the wreck of the Grosvenor is one of the most famous castaway accounts in South African maritime history.
The survivors on the beach were surrounded by many of their possessions, which had floated in on the new tide. They erroneously flew the Dutch flag as they walked, not knowing that the local Pondos did not remember Holland kindly after the First Frontier War.
They were harassed, robbed and picked off as they made their way down the coast – only 18 souls survived the journey.
A century later, some gold and silver coins were found on the beach near the wreck site, leading to speculations of vast treasure on board the Grosvenor. There have been many salvage attempts since then, but the actual wreck of the Grosvenor is still to be found and someone is still to emerge from the rocky depths with a fabled fortune…
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