Iziko Maritime centre

  • Iziko SAS Somerset

    This boat museum is not currently open to the public.

    PERMANENT
    The SAS Somerset is permanently moored for public viewing in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Table Bay Harbour, Cape Town. The SAS Somerset ... More info
  • The Last Voyage of the Mendi: Death in Foreign Waters

    Ongoing exhibition

    PERMANENT
    During the First World War, the cargo vessel Mendi was converted to a troopship. On the final leg of her voyage she was accidentally rammed by a British cargo vessel and sank within 20... More info
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The Iziko Maritime centre is not available for hire.

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The collections of African Art in the Permanent Collection of the South African (SA) National Gallery mirror the histories of independence, division and democracy that have shaped the character of our country over the last century and a half.   Read more
The Ancient and Classical Cultures are well represented by artefacts from Egypt dating from the Predynastic to Graeco-Roman Periods.    Read more
This collection comprises mostly indigenous African artefacts, with a special emphasis on southern Africa. Objects from all over the world have also been collected for comparative purposes, such as Inuit artefacts to provide an example of hunter-gatherer material culture in environmental conditions very different from those in Africa.    Read more
The Modern Painting and Sculpture Collection contains excellent examples of many leading South African artists of the early and mid-20th Century, such as Gerard Sekoto, Alexis Preller, Irma Stern and Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef, all of whose artworks are very much in demand today. Modernism is not easy to define, but refers roughly to a period dating from the 1860s through to the 1970s, and is used to describe the styles and ideologies of art produced during that era.   Read more
The bird study skin collection focuses on South African species, but includes species from elsewhere in Africa as well as other regions of the world.   Read more
The Cenozoic period spans the Palaeogene (66 million years ago (Ma)) to the Quaternary (Holocene - present).   Read more
The ceramics in our collection originate from many parts of the world, mainly Asia, Europe, Africa, and in particular South Africa. Contemporary works by South African ceramic artists form an import and developing part of the collection.   Read more
Collection of Contemporary Paintings and Sculpture extends temporally from approximately the 1960s-1970s to the present day, and consists predominantly of works by South African artists. This is one of the most actively acquiring collections, and while the Art Collections acquisition policy considers the redress of historical omissions as vital to the collection, it is also forward-looking with regard to the output of emerging and established artists in South Africa.   Read more
The Iziko Slave Lodge hosts a display of Egyptian artefacts within the Iziko collection. The collection of Egyptian artefacts, however, span greater than what can be viewed in the upper level of the Iziko Slave Lodge.   Read more
The entomology collection includes about 1,000,000 pinned insects and about 30,000 alcohol preserved samples of insects, arachnids (scorpions, spiders, etc.) and myriapods (centipedes, millipedes, etc.). It is the oldest entomology collection in South Africa with specimens dating back to the 1860's, and it contains about 7,000 primary types, mainly those of Péringuey (beetles), Hesse (flies), Arnold (aculeate Hymenoptera), Purcell (arachnids) and Barnard (mainly aquatic insects).   Read more
The furniture collection contains a substantial amount of South African furniture, dating from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. The emphasis of the collection is on Cape Furniture, originating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and is particularly well represented in the chair, table and armoire collections. Country and town furniture are represented; this collection includes some rare and unique items.    Read more
The glass collection includes items bearing the monogram of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and the Rosa van Gelderen Collection, a small but representative collection depicting English Victorian glass. In the bottle collection is an empty bottle of Constantia Pontac, dating from 1791.   Read more
The Historical and Maritime Archaeological Collection is housed at the Iziko Social History Centre. The collection has an extensive variety of artefacts from several sites in and around Cape Town. The artefacts represent 87 land sites as well as 45 shipwrecks sites.     Read more
The historical collections of painting and sculpture within the Art Collections Department of Iziko Museums embrace a wide range of works for art that are both South African and foreign in origin.    Read more
Invertebrate palaeontology is the study of fossils of animals with no backbone or spine. Fossils are the remains or impressions of a once-living plant or animal found in rock and often hardened through natural processes. Invertebrates as the name suggests are animals that do not possess a vertebral column and this especially applies to the soft-bodied and smaller invertebrates such as worms and amoebae whose remains are poorly fossilised.    Read more
Invetebrates are animal species that do not posess or develop a vertebral collumn. Familiar examples of invertebrates include insects, worms, clams, crabs, octopuses, snails and starfish.     Read more
The Karoo is a vast semi-desert region that covers much of inland South Africa, and is considered a national treasure for its abundance of desert-adapted plant and animal life, as well as its world famous fossils. The Karoo rock outcrops have long been regarded as the largest and richest collecting grounds for fossils of a long extinct group of vertebrates known as therapsids or “mammal-like reptiles”.   Read more
The mammal study skin collection includes a wide range of southern African large and small mammal species. Plains zebras Equus burchelli, which formed part of Reinhold Rau’s initial quagga project are particularly well represented.   Read more
Being situated near, the Atlantic, Indian and Antarctic marine systems has resulted in a wide diversity of southern African and other marine fauna being held in the collections at Iziko South African Museum.   Read more
Invertebrates are animals with no spinal column who dominate the animal kingdom, making up at least 95% of known animal species. Similarly, marine invertebrates make up the vast majority of ocean life; or at least those visible to the naked eye.    Read more
Marine mammals are a large and diverse group of 129 species that include seals, whales, dolphins, walruses and even polar bears. They share relatively few biological characteristics, but are instead grouped together because of one common factor – they all rely on the ocean for their existence.  The Marine Mammal Collection includes a comprehensive collection of cetacean and Cape fur seal skeletal material, as well as those from other marine mammals.  Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are the largest and most diverse order of marine mammals.   Read more
Marine vertebrates have a vertebral column, i.e. a spine and are by comparison to their invertebrate counter parts small in number, constituting only 4% of the sea’s animal kingdom. They are nonetheless considered among the most structurally complex organisms.     Read more
Cape Town's famous collection of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings on view at the Old Town House.   Read more
The Iziko Natural History Collections stand among the oldest, richest and most distinctive collections in the country. Together, the millions of specimens chronicle the natural history of animals and plants from Southern Africa and across the world. In so doing, they tell a fascinating story of life on Earth – from the earliest origins to how life has evolved into what we have today.   Read more
The Numismatic Collection includes currencies, tokens, scrip, medals and medallions. The world coin collection ranges from ancient and classical times to the present.   Read more
Palaeontology is the study of the preserved remains or traces of plants, animals and organisms that died thousands to millions of years ago. These preserved remains are called fossils and are found in rocks and sediments. Fossils allow us to understand how the Earth has changed over time and how animals evolve to what they are today.   Read more
The collection has been augmented by welcome donations, such as the presentation of 50 photographic prints by Arthur Rothstein in 1976 by the US Government. In addition, individual photographers have supported the Gallery with extraordinary generosity: in 1981, Paul Alberts presented 76 photographic prints and, in 1986, David Goldblatt presented 182 prints of his work. More recently, Struan Robertson donated 505 prints and his entire archive of negatives in 2003. Without such open-handedness, the Photographic Collection of the Iziko Department of Art Collections would be infinitely poorer. Between 2002 and 2005, we were fortunate to have been awarded funding for acquisitions by both the National Lotteries Board and the Department of Arts and Culture, which directly benefited the Photography and New Media Collections   Read more
All drawing media, except silver-point, are represented and all types of print media are covered in its holdings. The early historical prints include examples by artists such as Martin Schongauer, Michael Wohlgemnut and Albrecht Dürer. The collection has a representative collection of South African prints and drawings from the early 20th century onwards and this area is its main focus with regard to acquisitions.   Read more
The Rocks and Minerals Collections at the Iziko Museum of South Africa include a fine collection of calcite, a large collection from the former Tsumeb Mines in Namibia, rhodochrosite, which is found in Hotazel in the Northern Cape as well as diamonds of many different shapes and colours. There is also a unique meteorite collection, including both iron and stony chondrites and a rare carbonaceous chondrite.      Read more
Of special interest is the silver collection, especially the Cape silver. There are several interesting items of Cape commemorative silver. Apart from European silver, there are also silver items from Malaysia and Russia   Read more
The bulk of this collection, which boasts works by British artists such as Sir Thomas Lawrence, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir William Beechey, Sir Henry Raeburn, Henry Alken, Samuel Alken Junior, Charles Henderson, John Herring Senior, James Pollard, John Sartorius and Dean Wolstenholme Senior.    Read more
A gift of British Art to South Africa, part of the permanent collection at the Iziko South African National Gallery.   Read more
The nucleus of the original collections was established in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as part of the historical, archaeological and ethnographic collections of the South African Museum (SAM), and later the South African Cultural History Museum (SACHM).   Read more
Terrestrial vertebrates are commonplace, distributed across the globe even though vertebrates, as a whole, make up a fraction of animal diversity. Other than that they’re land-based animals with vertebral columns (spines or backbones) they’re also characterised by their well-defined joints and digits (fingers and toes). In scientific jargon, terrestrial vertebrates are known as Tetrapoda, in reference to these limbs.    Read more
Iziko holds an extremely large textile collection which includes flags, household linen, Indonesian ikats and batiks, Oriental carpets, samples and embroideries, as well as tapestries.   Read more
Toys are important for understanding the material world of childhood and changing patterns of socialization. The Toy Collection contains mainly commercially-manufactured dolls, marionettes, soft toys, games and a range of metal and plastic vehicles and trains, as well as indigenous African toys.    Read more
The transport collection contains about thirty coaches, wagons and carts – most being part of the Isaacs Collection – and bicycles.   Read more
The weaponry collection is yet another rich and diverse collection within the Iziko Social History Collections department, containing different types of firearms, stabbing weapons, artillery, protective garments, shields, throwing weapons and many more.   Read more
The William Fehr collection is exhibited at the Castle of Good Hope and Rust en Vreugd. The Castle, Cape Town’s oldest existing building, houses the component of oil paintings, furniture and decorative arts. Rust en Vreugd, a fine example of colonial eighteenth century urban architecture, houses the art on paper – prints, drawings and watercolours.    Read more
A large collection of woodworking tools enhances the furniture collection and the majority of the tools were documented and donated by Captain W. J. Van der Merwe.    Read more

Open: Daily from 10h00 to 17h00
Closed: Workers' Day and Christmas Day
Tel: +27 (0)21 405 2880
Fax: +27 (0)21 405 2888
Address: 1st Floor, Union-Castle House, Dock Road, V&A Waterfront

Entrance fees:
Adults R20
6-18 years R10
Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children, 6 years & older): R 50
SA students & pensioners (on provision of valid student/pensioner card): R 10
School groups (booked): R 5
School groups (unbooked): R 8
Under 5’s enter for free

*SA students and pensioners enter free on Fridays on provision of valid cards
*ICOM and SAMA members enter free on provision of valid cards
*50% discount for kids accompanying an adult during local school holidays

This museum is not currently open to the public.

The SAS Somerset is permanently moored for public viewing in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Table Bay Harbour, Cape Town.

The SAS Somerset was taken over from the South African Navy on 24 May 1988. She is the only Boom Defence Vessel left in the world.  While the SAS Somerset was in commission in the South African Navy her operational duties were restricted to salvage operations.

During the school holidays sleepovers for children are held aboard the SAS Somerset.

The SAS Somerset was recently seen in the Robinson dry-dock where she was receiving a well deserved and long overdue sprucing up courtesy of the Department of Public Works and Nautilus Marine. She should be ship shape and Bristol fashion by the end of September when her new life as a training centre for safety at sea will hopefully commence.

History of the SAS Somerset

The SAS Somerset was known as Ship No  280 when her keel was laid on 15 April 1941 in Blyth shipyard. She was engineered by Messrs Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd., Tyneside. On 8 April 1942, she was commissioned as HMS Barcross, one of a series of 76 of this class of vessel built during the Second World War.

Later in 1942 she sailed for South Africa under the command of Lt V Sutherland RNR and commenced duties in Saldanha Bay by laying and servicing boom defence equipment. On 23 January 1943 the ship was renamed the HMSAS Barcross and continued to serve under that name until 1947 when she was laid up in Durban.

In 1955, the ship was re-commissioned and renamed the SAS Somerset, after the famous horse that carried Dick King from Durban to Grahamstown in 1842. The connection is perpetuated in the seahorse on the ship’s crest.

On 24 May 1988, the SAS Somerset began a new career as a museum ship when she was towed form Simon's Town to Table Bay harbour where she repainted and refurbished. On 2 September 1988, the Chief of the South African Navy, Vice-Admiral G. Syndercombe, officially handed her over to the S A Cultural History Museum.

Facts and figures

  • The SAS Somerset was manned by one officer and 37 men.
  • The ship's overall length is 59m.
  • The full load displacement is 960 tons.
  • The ship is propelled by one main engine, known as a triple expansion reciprocating engine, which develops 850-horse power and is capable of propelling the ship at 11 knots. Steam is supplied to the main engine via two single-ended boilers, fed by furnace fuel oil at a rate of  tons per hour and feed water at eight tons per day.
  • Originally the ship was coal-fired and she only became oil-fired in 1959. In 1967 new boilers and a reconditioned engine were installed.

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 at http://rapidttp.co.za/museum/

Enquiries: Thys van der Merwe, Tel. 021 405 2884 or 021 464 1261 or email marsh@iziko.org.za

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About the Museum

The Iziko Maritime Centre features an overview of shipping in Cape Town, and 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.

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. It also has an online service for the answering of queries regarding the ships and for ordering images of these ships

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