Saturday, May 12, 2018

Souvenir Saturday: Minerva wreck 1850 ... or not?

The British barque, Minerva, one of Byrne's Emigrant ships, was wrecked below the Bluff on the night of 4 July 1850. If this photograph shows that event, it is the first photo taken in Natal. However, there is a controversy over the identity of the ship, some suggesting that it is a later vessel, the Defiance, wrecked in 1871.

Photography only started in Natal in the late 1850s, so whether this picture could be of the Minerva is questionable. 

Another point in favour of it being another vessel is that there would have been little time for a photographer to set up his complicated paraphernalia on the shore and take a photo in daylight before the ship broke up during the night of 5 - 6 July. Furthermore there is no indication of the frenetic activity which would have been involved in getting passengers and crew off the stricken vessel. The bystanders appear to be calmly watching the wreck from the shore.

A photograph of the Defiance bears striking similarities to the one shown above, i.e. supposedly of the Minerva.

An intriguing mystery and, as they say, the jury is still out.


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