The Hercules, commanded by Captain Benjamin Stout, is remembered in the Captain’s own Narrative of the Loss of the Ship Hercules, published in 1798. In this account the author states that the ship was wrecked on 16 June 1796 in a violent storm, at no great distance from the spot where the Grosvenor was lost in 1782. This is dubious as it rests mainly on eye-witness reports by local tribesmen. If the site had been near the Grosvenor the rate of progress of the Hercules' survivors to
on foot would have been 25 miles
per day, possibly more allowing for unavoidable detours, a speed impossible to
maintain. Other details given by the Captain muddy the water, so to speak, even
further, and his narrative is therefore reduced in credibility. Nevertheless,
Stout managed to get 60 of his men to the Cape Town Cape
without losing a single life.
A traveller named John Barrow states that the Hercules was wrecked between the mouths of the Keiskamma and the Beeka (Bira) Rivers, near Madagascar Reef. He says ‘we saw the wreck of the Hercules on the coast of
Caffraria at the
precise spot indicated by the Captain’. But he also mentions that he met Stout
and some of his crew at the Cape, which is impossible as the Captain left the
Cape in September 1796 and Barrow did not arrive in until May 1797. South Africa
However there was a wreck at the site Barrow refers to, near the Umtana. This has been accepted as being that of the Hercules but may not be. According to various experts, the guns found at the spot had been reported years earlier and that pottery found there is too early. The latter could be explained by the theory that Chinese porcelain is not always a good indication of date for a wreck as this material was often used as ballast and could be of earlier origin.
There might have been more than one wreck in this vicinity. Some researchers have claimed that the so-called Hercules wreck might be the Bennebroek.
Another maritime mystery left for us to ponder. The name Hercules appears on maps of the area, possibly from the wreck.