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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Highfields

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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay : Highfields
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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Highfields

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The dive site Highfields is an offshore historical wreck in the Table Bay area on the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.


Sonar scan of the wreck of the Highfields

The Highfields was a British four-masted steel barque commanded by Capt E.R. Dunham. The vessel was lost on 14 August 1902 after a voyage from Cardiff to Table Bay with a cargo of coal. The steamship Kaiser was at anchor when the Highfields came out of the dark (just after midnight) and hit her anchor chain. The Highfields briefly lay across her bows before being blown off. The Kaiser was not damaged at all, but the Highfields sank within 2 to 5 minutes of the collision with the loss of 23 crew. Survivors reported that she had been in stormy seas for a few days and had lost most of canvass and her decks were awash. It seems her crew and captain were desperate to find shelter.


  • S33°53.1317’ E 18° 25.8300’ (Bow)
  • S33°53.1417’ E 18° 25.0800’ (Stern)
  • Just south-west of the No.1 entrance channel buoy.

This site is not in a Marine Protected Area. A permit is not required.


The name "Highfields" is the name of the shipwreck at this site.

Tonnage 2220 tons
Length 70 .4 m
Beam 13 .4 m
Rig Barque
Masts 4
Crew 27
Year of constuction 1892
Construction steel
Builder Richardson Duck & Co, Stockton


Maximum depth is about 25m. and the top of the wreckage is about 22m.


Visibility will be at its best during or after strong south easterly winds, and may exceed 20m, but will more likely be around 8 to 10m. If the wind stops and the sun shines for a few days, plankton bloom will reduce visibility, and if westerly winds blow, they will usually also result in poor visibility (could be less than a metre on a bad day).


The wreck lies in roughly 24m on low flat rock with small patches of sand and gravel, and is fairly intact but is up-side down so it is mostly hull plating that is visible, Around the sides there are a few places where one can see into or under the hull, and her huge anchors lie just off the bow.

Geology: Pre-Cambrian sedimentary rocks, probably of the Tygerberg formation, with scattered patches of sand and gravel. The rock is quite hard and tends to weather in rectangular blocky forms. Strike probably north/south. Dip not known.


The site is usually at it's best in summer but there may also be occasional opportunities in spring and autumn.

Get in

This site is only accessed by boat as it is quite far offshore and at the edge of the shipping lane at the entry to Cape Town harbour. Take care to remain outside of the shipping lane.

The site is about 2.2km from the Oceana Power Boat Club slipway


Marine life


Inverted steel wreck.


Suggested Routes

No specific route recommended. It is possinble to circumnavigate the wreck during a dive.

Stay safe


Diving the Highfields is especially tricky as she lies only a few meters north of the entrance channel to the harbour. One needs to inform Cape Town port control of the dive and then devise an ascent system that prevents divers drifting south into the channel on ascent and while on the surface. A shot line placed on the bow (furthest point away from the channel) with its buoy attached to a second line to an anchor placed about 100m further north has proved workable. Another way is for divers to tie a sacrificial ascent line to the wreck which they hold onto during ascent and on the surface. They then let go of the line once the dive boat gets to them.


It is essential to be able to find your way back to the shotline, or deploy an upline and DSMB for ascent, as you must avoid getting into the shipping lane, particularly during the ascent, as at that time the boat will not be able to assist if a ship comes through. Do not assume that large ships will be able to avoid your DSMB, even if they see it. Altrnatives for finding the shotline include bottom lines, and effective use of a compass, bearing in mind that the wreck is steel, and will affect accuracy of a nearby compass. Navigation using landmarks may be possible, but this will depend on visibility.

The site is not suitable for entry level divers due to the depth and skills requirements.


DSMB is strongly recommended so that the boat can monitor your position if you must ascend away from the shotline. Jersey upline (disposable, biodegradable line for ascent) recommended to prevent drift if ascending away from shotline.

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