S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Werlinghoff, Mr Frederich Mathias von (mining engineering)

Born: Date not known, Place not known.
Died: Date not known, Place not known.

Friedrich Matthias von Werlinghoff (also Frederick Mathias von Werlinghof/Werlinckhof), berghopman (mine overseer) in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, visited the Cape of Good Hope in 1685-1686 on his way to Sumatra. He arrived on the ship De Purmer with orders to investigate the mineral deposits that had been found at the Cape. Commissioner-General H.A. van Reede* furthermore left instructions that he should prospect for minerals in all the rivers and mountains near the settlement. He reported that the only place where ore had been found was at Witteboomen, on the Cape Peninsula, some three hours travel from the fort, a place still known as Silvermine, where mining in three shafts had already proceeded to a depth of 16 (Dutch) fathoms (27m). As there was adequate wood and water, and little danger of flooding, he was able to continue operations there at little cost. At the depth of 16 fathoms there were some good indications of minerals, containing some copper but very little silver. However, at a depth of 17 fathoms there was no more ore.

Werlinghoff also accompanied the expedition led by Governor Simon van der Stel* to Namaqualand in search of copper deposits. The expedition left Cape Town on 25 August 1685. Although he searched for mineral deposits along the entire route, nothin of value was found until they reached the vicinity of present Springbok on 21 October. There they found copious indications that copper was present, particularly on a ridge formed by a dyke of diorite and norite in the gneiss some eight kilometers east of Springbok. The ridge is still known as the Koperberg. A prospecting hole was dug to a depth of about five meters, yielding copper ore with pure metal disseminated through it. Von Werlinghoff thought that the ore also contained some silver, but was probably mistaken. The ore became richer with depth, and two other holes nearby proved equally successful. However, transport costs made mining uneconomical at this time.

Werlinghoff left the Cape in 1686 to continue his journey to the East, where he supervised mining operations along the west coast of Sumatra. On his way back to Europe the ship on which he was travelling, the Hoogergeest, was wrecked in Table Bay in June 1692. Though his life was saved, he lost all his personal posessions.

List of sources:
Dictionay or South African biography, Vol. 4, 1981.

Hoge, J. Personalia of the Germans at the Cape, 1652-1806. Archives Yearbook for South African History, 1946, pp. 1-495.

Moritz, E. Die Deutschen am Kap unter den Holländische Herrschaft, 1652-1806. Weimar: Böhlaus, 1938. Rogers, A.W. An old report on the copper field of Namaqualand. Report of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, 1917, pp. 146-152.

Rogers, A.W. The pioneers in South African geology and their work. Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1937, Annexure to Vol. 39, pp. 1-139.

Compiled by: C. Plug