About this museum
The Iziko Maritime Centre features an overview of shipping in Cape Town.
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. Shipwrecks at the Cape are briefly discussed. 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.
What’s on show
The Last Voyage of the Mendi: Death in Foreign Waters
During the First World War, the cargo vessel Mendi was converted to a troopship. In 1917 she carried a group of the South African Native Labour Contingent to help with the war effort in France. On the final leg of her voyage she was accidentally rammed by the British cargo vessel Darro on 21 February 1917. She sank within 20 minutes. Six hundred and seven of the black troops on board died in the icy waters of the English Channel.
The exhibition sketches the background to this disaster and what it was like on board the vessel for the troops. Stories of bravery abound and echoes of this are still visible today. We also show what the wreck looks like today and highlight some of the recoveries from the wreckage. Acknowledgement is due to Wessex Archaeology, a British company that provided photographic material as well as information.
John H Marsh Maritime Research Centre
The Iziko Maritime Centre provides an overview of shipping in Cape Town. 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 gives 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,
6:00 – 7:00 PM
Out in the cold - training South Africa's new polar scientists
A presentation by Isabelle Ansorge
7:00 – 8:00 PM
South African connections with the Historic Antarctic Explorers
A presentation by Sydney Cullis
8:00 – 9:00 PM
Fascinating World of Shipping
A Walkabout with the curator of
the Iziko Maritime Centre,
Thys van der Merwe