S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Beutler, Ensign August Friedrich (geographical exploration)

Born: 11 April 1720, Dinkelsbuhl, Bavaria, Germany.
Died: Date not known, Germany.

August Friedrich Beutler, son of the Lutheran pastor Georg Friedrich Mauritius Beutler and Maria Ursula Laib, may have studied for some time at the University of Tuebingen, but no details are known. He joined the Dutch navy and in about 1749 came to the Cape with the rank of ensign. In 1850 he married Anna Magdalena van den Heever, with whom he had several children.

In February 1752 governor Rijk Tulbagh put Beutler in charge of a well prepared expedition to the Eastern Cape to investigate the possibilities of developing the region. The party comprised some 70 persons, including the surveyor Carel D. Wentzel*, plant collector Hendrik Beenke, and Pieter Clements to take astronomical observations. Departing from Cape Town on 29 February, they travelled via Caledon and Swellendam to Mossel Bay (3 April), crossed the Outeniqua Mountains at Attaquaskloof, and went along the Langkloof to St. Francis Bay (4 May). After crossing the Bushmans River (20 May) and the Fish River (2 June) they travelled further from the coast, reaching the Keiskamma near Line Drift on 5 June. Proceeding across the Kei River they reached the vicinity of present day Butterworth before turning back around 10 July. Returning first along their old route they turned westwards to where Bedford now is and explored the valley of the Fish River to the vicinity of present day Cradock, before turning south to where they had crossed the Bushman's River. They returned to Cape Town via their outward route, reaching it on 6 November.

In his journal of the expedition Beutler described the topography, climate and vegetation of the regions visited, and provided the first proper description of the Xhosa. His report established clearly that the eastern area could support European settlement better than the Karoo. He furthermore may have been the first to mention rock paintings, of which he found many along the Fish River.

Beutler returned to Dinkelsbuhl, Germany, in or before 1755.

List of sources:
Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 2, 1972.

Forbes, Vernon S. Pioneer travellers in South Africa: a geographical commentary upon routes, records, observations and opinions of travellers at the Cape, 1750-1800. Cape Town: Balkema, 1965.

F?rtsch, E. Kartographische und geologische Erschliessung. Lantern, 1992, Vol. 41, pp. 98-102.

Godee Molsbergen, E.C. Reizen in Zuid-Afrika in de Hollandsche tijd (Vol. 3). Den Haag: Linschoten Vereniging, 1922.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Hoge, J. Personalia of the Germans at the Cape, 1652-1806. Archive Yearbook for South African History. Cape Town: Cape Times, 1946

Moritz, E. Die Deutschen am Kap unter der holl?ndischen Herrschaft, 1652-1806 (p. 41, 316). Weimar: H. B?hlaus, 1938.

Standard encyclopaedia of southern Africa. Cape Town: Nasou, 1970.

Compiled by: C. Plug