Arniston, South Africa

Coordinates: 34°40′0″S 20°13′50″E / 34.66667°S 20.23056°E / -34.66667; 20.23056
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Arniston's typical fisherman houses
Arniston's typical fisherman houses
Arniston is located in Western Cape
Arniston is located in South Africa
Coordinates: 34°40′0″S 20°13′50″E / 34.66667°S 20.23056°E / -34.66667; 20.23056
CountrySouth Africa
ProvinceWestern Cape
MunicipalityCape Agulhas
 • Total3.95 km2 (1.53 sq mi)
 • Total1,267
 • Density320/km2 (830/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)
 • Black African2.4%
 • Coloured87.9%
 • Indian/Asian0.2%
 • White9.6%
First languages (2011)
 • Afrikaans86.1%
 • Tswana5.7%
 • English4.8%
 • Other3.4%
Time zoneUTC+2 (SAST)
PO box

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

Wreck of Arniston[edit]

In May 1815, a British East Indiaman, Arniston, was rounding the Cape in convoy on a journey to repatriate wounded British soldiers from Ceylon. The ship lacked a chronometer — an expensive instrument at the time — and consequently had to rely on other ships in the fleet to calculate the longitude of the group. After being separated from the convoy in heavy seas, the captain of Arniston was obliged to rely solely on dead reckoning to navigate. Thinking incorrectly that he was west of the Cape of Good Hope because of lack of headway, led to an incorrect assumption that Cape Agulhas was Cape Point. Consequently, Arniston was wrecked when her captain headed north for St Helena, operating on the incorrect belief the ship had already passed Cape Point, the master steered north for St Helena and ran the ship onto the rocks at Waenhuiskrans. Only six of the 378 people on board survived the wrecking.[2]

The survivors spent several days on the beach before being discovered by a farmer's son.[3] A memorial, a replica of which can be seen today, was erected on the beach by the wife of Colonel Andrew Geils (here spelled "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 name of the wreck has become synonymous with the name of the location and today the labels 'Arniston' and 'Waenhuiskrans' are used interchangeably.


At first only a fishing community, Arniston has become a holiday destination and its hinterland a region for viticulture. The fishing village, characterized by its lime-washed and thatched houses, remains unspoiled and has been declared a national monument in its entirety. Fishermen still go to sea in boats of the style that would have been familiar to locals in the early nineteenth century, although now under contract to larger commercial enterprises. Whale watching is a popular tourist activity. The Arniston Hotel is a popular tourist destination that looks out over the ocean. The closest major town is Bredasdorp, 24 kilometres (15 mi) to the north. The Overberg Test Range is situated adjacent to the town.


  1. ^ a b c d "Main Place Arniston". Census 2011.
  2. ^ Basil Hall (1862). The Lieutenant and Commander. Bell and Daldy.
  3. ^ Raikes, Henry (1846). Memoir of the Life and Services of Vice-admiral Sir Jahleel Brenton. Hatchet & Son. p. 527.

Remembering Arniston: A Bicentenary Picture Book in Commemoration of the Wreck of the HMS Arniston, South Africa, 30 May 1815 Paperback

External links[edit]