I. Ship Description and Cargo

II. Voyage, Scurvy and Sinking

III. Valuable Wreck Debris

IV. 1979 Discovery

Ship Description and Cargo
The Reijgersdaal or Reygersdahl (pronounced REE-jerz-doll) was an 850-ton merchant ship built in 1738 for the Dutch East India Company. On May 31, 1747 the Reijgersdaal left Texel (Netherlands) with 297 people on board. Her cargo consisted of eight chests of silver pillar dollars (approximately 30,000 coins) from the Mexico mint and lead bars. Pillar dollars were used throughout the Dutch East India Company’s empire, and especially in the Indonesian spice trade.

Voyage, Scurvy and Sinking
In order to reach Indonesia, the Reijgersdaal had to round southern Africa. After several months at sea, she reached Dassen Island on the west coast of Africa in October 1747. She lost 125 men to scurvy en route. Unable to anchor because of bad weather, a boat was lowered so that fresh food could be retrieved from the island. The Reijgersdaal was finally able to anchor on the north side of Robben Island in Table Bay, and remained there until the next day because much of the surviving crew had scurvy. A strong wind prevented the ship from reaching anchorage in Table Bay, so it was decided to weigh anchor and try to return to Dassen Island, but the ship struck a reef during the attempt. About 15 men climbed into a boat to try to take a line ashore, but the ship was destroyed before they reached the shore. The entire crew that remained on board perished in the wreck.

Valuable Wreck Debris
Three days after the Reijgersdaal sank, one of the money chests was found on the beach with approximately 3,600 silver coins inside.

1979 Discovery
In 1979, the wreck of the Reijgersdaal was discovered by Brian Clarke and Tubby Gericke. They were unable to find any treasure, but did recover six bronze cannons and many lead bars. The next salvors, Jimmy Rawe and Arthur Ridge, were more successful. They recovered approximately 6,800 silver pillar dollars dating from 1732 to 1744. The coins had never entered circulation and were very well preserved considering they were underwater for over 230 years.
©2008 BBWS, Inc.

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