Maritime Centre

Welcome

The Iziko Maritime Centre features an overview of shipping in Cape Town, and the earliest existing model of Table Bay harbour, completed in 1885 by prisoners and warders of Breakwater Prison, forms part of the exhibitions.

Images depicting Table Bay from the 17th to 20th Century give an idea of the development of the harbour.

There is a collection of ship models and objects associated with shipping in Cape Town, in particular the era of mail-ships. Large and medium-sized images support the exhibitions, with the emphasis on the Union-Castle Line.

A key part of this resource centre is the John H Marsh Maritime Research Centre. The Marsh collection consists of various collections including an important archive of nearly 20 000 photographs, depicting 9 200 ships dating from the late 1920s to the early 1960s. It also has an

online service for the answering of queries regarding the ships and for ordering images of these ships.

SAS Somerset

This museum is not currently open to the public.

The SAS Somerset is permanently moored for public viewing in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Table Bay Harbour, Cape Town.

The SAS Somerset was taken over from the South African Navy on 24 May 1988. She is the only Boom Defence Vessel left in the world.  While the SAS Somerset was in commission in the South African Navy her operational duties were restricted to salvage operations.

During the school holidays sleepovers for children are held aboard the SAS Somerset.

The SAS Somerset was recently seen in the Robinson dry-dock where she was receiving a well -deserved and long overdue sprucing up courtesy of the Department of Public Works and Nautilus Marine. She should be ship shape and Bristol fashion by the end of September when her new life as a training centre for safety at sea will hopefully commence.

 

History of the SAS Somerset

The SAS Somerset was known as Ship No 280 when her keel was laid on 15 April 1941 in Blyth shipyard. She was engineered by Messrs Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd., Tyneside. On 8 April 1942, she was commissioned as HMS Barcross, one of a series of 76 of this class of vessel built during the Second World War.

Later in 1942 she sailed for South Africa under the command of Lt V Sutherland RNR and commenced duties in Saldanha Bay by laying and servicing boom defence equipment. On 23 January 1943 the ship was renamed the HMSAS Barcross and continued to serve under that name until 1947 when she was laid up in Durban.

In 1955, the ship was re-commissioned and renamed the SAS Somerset, after the famous horse that carried Dick King from Durban to Grahamstown in 1842. The connection is perpetuated in the seahorse on the ship’s crest.

On 24 May 1988, the SAS Somerset began a new career as a museum ship when she was towed form Simon's Town to Table Bay harbour where she was repainted and refurbished. On 2 September 1988, the Chief of the South African Navy, Vice-Admiral G. Syndercombe, officially handed her over to the S. A. Cultural History Museum.

 

Facts and figures

  • The SAS Somerset was manned by one officer and 37 men.

  • The ship's overall length is 59m.

  • The full load displacement is 960 tons.

  • The ship is propelled by one main engine, known as a triple expansion reciprocating engine, which develops 850-horse power and is capable of propelling the ship at 11 knots. Steam is supplied to the main engine via two single-ended boilers, fed by furnace fuel oil at a rate of  tons per hour and feed water at eight tons per day.

  • Originally the ship was coal-fired and she only became oil-fired in 1959. In 1967 new boilers and a reconditioned engine were installed.

 

John H Marshall Maritime Research Centre

Images depicting Table Bay from the 17th to 20th century give an idea of the development of the harbour. Exhibitions include the earliest existing model of Table Bay harbour, completed in 1885 by prisoners and wardens of the nearby Breakwater Prison, and a collection of ship models and objects associated in particular with the era of mail ships. An exhibition of images, ship models and objects provides insight into the Union-Castle Line and shipwrecks around the Cape coast.

The John H. Marsh Maritime Research Centre provides an archive of nearly 20 000 photographs, depicting 9 551 ships dating from the late 1920s to the early 1960s. An online service for the answering of queries regarding ships and for ordering images of these ships is available at http://rapidttp.co.za/museum/

Enquiries: Thys van der Merwe, Tel. 021 405 2884 or 021 464 1261 or email marsh@iziko.org.za