The Collections

Britain and South Africa: a Maritime and Scientific Relationship

Created: 06.07.11

For nearly four centuries, there have been strong maritime and scientific links between Britain and southern Africa. A variety of reasons – political, strategic and economic – connected the two places. Following the consolidation of British rule at the Cape, for example, the Royal Navy established a naval base at Simon’s Town, which was retained until 1957. Ships of the East India Company, rounding the Cape of Good Hope on their way to and from the lucrative markets of Asia frequently stopped to take on fresh supplies. Travellers, explorers and scientists bound for destinations in the Pacific, and often sailing in Royal Navy vessels, passed the Cape on their way. And British settlers and resident scientists made observations and did fieldwork in southern Africa itself. This selection of material from the collection of the National Maritime Museum illustrates just some of these maritime and scientific connections between Britain and southern Africa.

  • Name
  • Artist / Maker
  • Date made
  • ID
  • Hodges, William
    MOD ID 684
    'A View of the Cape of Good Hope, Taken on the Spot, from on Board the 'Resolution', Capt Cooke'

    (Updated, August 2018) Hodges' paintings of the Pacific are vivid records of British exploration. He was appointed by the Admiralty to record the places discovered on Cook's second voyage, undertaken in the 'Resolution' and 'Adventure', 1772-75. This was primarily in…

  • Paget, H.
    Five shillings

    A South African five shilling piece. Obverse: Head of King George VI (left). Legend: 'GEORGIVS SEXTVS REX'. Reverse: Port-quarter view of a three-masted 17th century vessel under sail; a mountainous coast in distance. Legend: 'SUID AFRICA - 1652 - 1952…

  • Walters, Samuel
    The Indiaman 'Euphrates'

    A portrait of the Indiaman ‘Euphrates’ among shipping, in an imaginary scene, showing Cape Town and Table Bay in the distance on the left. A British ship on the left is firing a salute. There is a small fishing boat…

  • Rice, William
    False Bay at the Cape of Good Hope with the soundings as taken in the year 1797 by order of Rear Admiral Pringle

    Single sheet. Ms. Medium: Two sheets of paper joined. Scale: [ca.1:75 000 (bar)].

  • Smyth, Charles Piazzi
    Daylight View over Table Bay Showing the Great Comet of 1843

    An eyewitness account of the Great Comet of 1843 painted by the astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth. The earliest observation occurred on the evening of 5 of February, 1843 and Smyth recorded its appearance at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good…