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The dive site SS Hypatia is an offshore historical wreck in the Robben Island area on the Atlantic seaboard of the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.


Map of the dive site at the wreck of the SS Hypatia

Image:Hypatia c 1920.jpg

SS Hypatia at sea


  • 1 Hypatia: S33°50.110’ E018°22.750’ — Engine block

This site is in the Robben Island Marine Protected Area (2019). A permit is required.


The "SS Hypatia" was a British Houston Line steamer of 5 728 tons, built in 1902 by Palmers & Co, Newcastle. It was wrecked on Whale Rock in Table Bay on 29 October 1929 in fog while on a voyage from Beira to New York with a cargo of blister copper and chrome ore. The ship's bell was recovered in the 1960s and the propeller was salvaged in 1974.


Maximum depth is uncertain, but unlikely to be deeper than about 12 m. Most of the wreckage is at about 7 to 9 m, and the shallowest parts may be at 6 m.


Visibility is likely to be somewhat less than the general surrounding area due to relatively shallow depth. It will normally be fairly good after a south east wind, and may well exceed 10 m on a good day.


With the notable exception of the engine and propeller shaft, most of the wreckage is broken up into fairly small pieces, and lies wedged in cracks and on the bottom of shallow gullies in the reef.

Geology: Pre-Cambrian sedimentary rocks probably of the Tygerberg formation. These appear to be resistant sandstone or mudstone, and the gullies have very little sand in them as this is a very high energy area in rough weather. The reef is moderately low profile, not more tha 1 or 2 metres, and there is no obvious pattern to the ridges and gullies.


This reef is exposed to the south west swell. There is often a break in the area and the surge can be very powerful. The water is usually cold. The site should be dived when the sea is fairly flat.

The site is usually at it's best in summer but there are also occasional opportunities in other seasons.

Get in[edit]

Only accessible by boat. The site is about 8 km from the Oceana Power Boat Club slipway


Marine life[edit]

Notable for heavy growth of large red-bait pods, algal turf understorey, sparse split fan kelp forest, Black mussels and sea urchins. The wreckage is largely encrusted with coralline algae, which make it the same colour as the underlying rock. Shoals of Hottentot seabream are frequent.


Wreckage of a steel ship. The structure was riveted plates, and the power was a single triple expansion steam engine, which is the largest remaining piece of wreckage. The engine lies on its port side on top of the reef, and looks very much like the reef from a distance. The large, long and straight propeller shaft protruding from the engine about a metre above the reef is a good landmark. The rest of the wreckage is mostly small and not easily identifiable, and lies in the low areas between the ridges.



No specific route recommended.

Stay safe[edit]


Cold water, strong surge, sharp wreckage.


No special skills recommended.


Good insulation recommended. 7 mm wet suit or dry suit.


Back to Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay

This dive guide to SS Hypatia is a usable article. It has information on location and equipment as well as some complete entries on what to see. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.