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Arniston's typical fisherman houses

Arniston is a small seaside settlement in the Overberg region on the Cape South coast, close to Cape Agulhas, the southern-most tip of Africa. Prior to the shipwreck of the Arniston, it was known as Waenhuiskrans, an Afrikaans name meaning literally "Wagon house cliff", after a local sea cave large enough to park a wagon and a span of oxen in.

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Wreck of the Arniston

In May 1815, a British East Indiaman, the Arniston, was rounding the Cape on a journey repatriating wounded solidiers from Ceylon back to England. The ship did not have a chronometer aboard, an expensive instrument at the time, and consequently relied on other ships in its convoy to calculate its longitude. After being separated from its convoy in heavy seas, the Arnison was relying on dead reckoning to navigate. Thinking incorrectly he was 100 miles west of the Cape, the master steered north for St Helena, and thereby wrecked the ship on the rocks at Waenhuiskrans. Only six of the 378 souls on board survived.[1]

The survivors spent several days on the beach before being discovered by a farmer's son[2] A memorial, a replica of which can be seen today, was erected on the beach by the wife of Colonel Giels, whose four unaccompanied children were lost in the tragedy. The memorial bears the following inscription:

Erected by their disconsolate parents to the memory of Thomas, aged 13 years, William Noble, aged 10, Andrew, aged 8 and Alexander McGregor Murray, aged 7 (the four eldest sons of Lieut Colonel Andrew Giels of H.M. 73rd Regiment) who, with Lord and Lady Molesworth unfortunately perished in the Arniston Transport, wrecked on this shore on 3rd May, 1815.

Over the years, the wreck's name has become synonymous with the place name, and today Arniston and Waenhuiskrans are used interchangeably.

Modern Day

At first only a fishing community, it has now become a renowned holiday destination and wine farming area. The fishing village - recognisable for its lime-washed and thatched houses - remains intact and has been declared a National Monument in its entirety. Fishermen still take the original style boats out, although now under contract. Whale watching is a popular seaside tourist activity.The Arniston Hotel is a popular tourist destination that looks out over the ocean.

The closest major town is Bredasdorp, 24km to the north. The Overberg Test Range is situated adjacent to the town.

References

External links

Coordinates: 34°40′S 20°14′E / 34.667°S 20.233°E / -34.667; 20.233

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