The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 15 No 5 - June 2012


In a media release from Mossel Bay Tourism, issued on 23 August 2011, a fascinating new discovery of maritime history was announced. An exceptionally low spring tide at Fransmanshoek in April 2011 had revealed a 250 year-old ship's canon on the beach. It was a lucky find, as the canon was only exposed for a few hours in April, and then 'again in August. It was found in the area of the Fransmanshoek Conservancy, which boasts one of the longest beaches in the Mossel Bay region.

The recently-recovered canon was originally one of 56 such weapons aboard the French man o'war, La Fortune, which ran aground off Fransmanshoek on 11 September 1763. It is only the fourth of these canons to have been recovered. According to Conservancy member Fred Orban, who assisted with the recovery, Amanda Human of the Dias Museum Complex in Mossel Bay helped with the applications for the necessary permits. The canon was moved to a nearby farm, where it will be cleaned and cured under the guidance of experts, before going on public display.

The first two canons were recovered in the 1930s, and the third in 1960. What is also remarkable about the latest find is that the 1960 recovery had been made by one Louis van Rensburg, grandfather of the man with the same name who made the most recent discovery in 2011. The three canons recovered earlier can be seen in the village of Kanon and are a feature of the world-famous Oyster Catcher Trail, which traverses the Conservancy. A stone information hut on the point in the Fransmanshoek reserve tells the story of the shipwreck. The ill-fated French vessel was en route to France from Mauritius when it ran aground during a storm. Remarkably, Capt de Surville and 400 crew members survived the ordeal.

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