SHIPWRECKS ON THE SOUTH AFRICAN COAST
Shipwrecks on the south African coast are of interest because the accounts of survivors provide the first descriptions of the country and its inhabitants; they also give evidence of a decline in Portuguese seamanship.
This galleon was lost on the coast of Natal. The survivors escaped by boat to Moçambique. Nothing else is known about the wreck.1
This nau and another left Goa on 1 March, 1622. Early in the voyage she began to take in water; the pumps proved inadequate, and it was necessary to bail. The S. João lost sight of her consort, and she was alone when, on 19 July, in a latitude 40 or 50 miles south of Cape Agulhas, she sighted two Netherlands ships, the Mauritius and the Wapen van Rotterdam, which were on their way to the East. Those on board tried to clear for action, but this was difficult since the ship was grossly overloaded. That afternoon she fired two broadsides, and during the next two days there were repeated exchanges of shot. Having only 18 pieces of small calibre and little powder, she could not keep the enemy from closing, and 20 Portuguese were killed. Bales of cloth were then piled for protection, and from then on there were few battle casualties. For nineteen days from the first sighting the action continued, though fire was exchanged on only nine of these. During one of these lulls Linhares's armada sailed by, but her look-outs did not recognize the Portuguese ship, which was soon in desperate straits, her main mast gone, her bowsprit broken, her foresail shot away, various yards damaged, and a hole below the waterline. Her rudder, which had lain on the beach at Goa for two years, was shattered; the pins tore from the hull, and more water rushed into the ship. All hands worked at pumping and bailing, but still the water gained.____________________