SOUTH AFRICA TABLET 12: Remarkably quick journey. Three letters found.

by TimeTraveler

And so, after a passage of one hundred and four days from Texel, on the morning of Sunday the 7th of April 1652 Mr. Van Riebeek and his party looked upon the site of their future home.

The passage for those days was a remarkably quick one.

The officers of every ship that made Batavia Roads within six months after leaving Texel were entitled to a premium of fifty pounds sterling, and the Cape was considered two-thirds of the sailing distance outwards.

So that in 1652, and indeed for more than another century, anything below one hundred and twenty days was considered a short passage between the Netherlands and South Africa.

The people on board having been so long without fresh food were somewhat sickly, but the death rate had been unusually small. The Dromedaris had lost only two individuals, one being a child of the ship's surgeon, who had his family with him, and the other a carpenter who was ill when he left the fatherland. No deaths are mentioned as having occurred on board the Reiger or Goede Hoop.

At daybreak Skipper Coninck landed for the purpose of looking for letters and to get some herbs and fresh fish.

It was usual for the masters of ships that called at Table Bay to leave journals of events and other documents concealed in secured places, and to mark on prominent stones directions for finding them. This had been the practice for nearly half a century, so that a fleet arriving from home always expected to get here the latest news from the East. In time of war great caution had to be taken, so as to leave no information that could be made use of by an enemy, but otherwise the practice was found to be very convenient.

The skipper took with him six armed soldiers and a boat's crew with a seine. A box with three letters was discovered, and a good haul of fish was made.

The letters had been written by Jan van Teylingen, admiral of the last return fleet, who had left Table Bay on the 26th of February with three ships out of the eleven under his flag.

The others had been lost sight of soon after passing the straight of Sunda.

The admiral had waited here eleven days, and had then gone on to St. Helena, in hope of finding the missing ships there. But in case they should still be behind and should arrive in Table Bay after his departure, he had left a letter addressed to their commanders, informing them of his movements.

In it he stated that he had only been able to procure one bullock and one sheep from the Hottentots, though many cattle were seen inland.

There were on board the missing ships some horses intended for the use of the people who were coming to form a victualling station, and he directed that these should be landed and placed in charge of a certain Hottentot who could speak English.

The other two letters were addressed to the governor-general and councillors of India, and were left here to be taken on by any ship that might call.

In the evening Mr. Van Riebeek and some others went ashore to examine the valley and select a site for the fort.

Reference: History and Ethnography of Africa South of the Zambesi by George McCall Theal.