The SAS ASSEGAAI lives on as a Submarine Museum

Article and photos by Sea Dimakatso Khoza

SAS Assegaai, formerly the SAS Johanna van der Merwe, was one of three Daphne-class submarines acquired from France during 1970 to 1972, which became the first submarines to serve in the South African Navy. She is 58m long and had a complement of six officers and 45 senior and junior ratings. Fitted with 12 x 550mm torpedo tubes, she could also carry sea mines.

She was renamed SAS Assegaai in 1999 and was the last of the SA Navy’s Daphne class submarines in commission and finally decommissioned in 2003. Currently she is preserved as a floating museum but will be preserved ashore at the Naval Museum by 2013.

Visitors arriving aboard from the ferry


The Assegaai museum submarine gives those who have never been on a submarine the opportunity to experience life in a submarine and its intricacies, albeit for a brief visit. All tours are conducted by experienced volunteer guides who explain life aboard as well as how the boat was run and how the systems work. The interior has been perfectly preserved and one is able to see and experience all its equipment in the cramped setting – the tiny galley being an example of this.

One also get to experience the feeling of being in a boat underwater. An explanation is also given of how the submarine dives and how it surfaces at sea and you get to know many interesting facts about submarines. One of the more fascinating aspects being the generation of fresh air for the crew when dived.

The Captain’s cabin with one sink and a small bunk


The forward mess – three per two bunks

The museum is also informative for youngsters and children who have an interest in becoming submariners, as it gives them the opportunity to find out more on the career that they want to follow.

Two heads found in the submarine


Interesting Facts:

  • The museum is one of about five of its kind in the Southern hemisphere and the first in Africa.
  • More than 20 countries including Germany, United States of America and the United Kingdom have Submarine Museums.
Daphne Class submarine fact file:
Length: 57.8m
Beam: 6.75m
Draught: 5.23m
Shafts:  2
Displacements: 700(standard)
860 (surface)
Machinery: 2 x SEMT Pielstick 450kW diesel generators
Propulsion: 2 x Jeumont-Schneider electric propulsion motors
Batteries: 2 x 80 cells each
Speed: 13.5 kts (Su) 16kts (Sub)
Range: 4300nm @ 7.5kts (Snorting)
2700nm @ 12.5kts (Surface)
Torpedoes: 12 x 550mm tubes
8 forward (Internal)
4 Aft (external)
Complement:  6 Officers and 45 Ratings
(+ 6 to 10 trainees)