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aban­don­ment be pre­sumed.

With­out proof of pre­sump­tion of aban­don­ment, no one can ac­quire rights of own­er­ship by oc­cu­pa­tio. Aban­don­ment is a ques­tion of fact and will de­pend on the cir­cum­stances of each case. The erst­while owner of the prop­erty must man­i­fest an in­ten­tion not to re­sume own­er­ship.

Two wrecks are wor­thy of men­tion. In the case of the Birken­head, a con­sign­ment of gold coins was lost. The ves­sel was wrecked on Fe­bru­ary 26 1852 while trans­port­ing troops to Al­goa Bay, at Dan­ger Point near Gans­baai, 140km from Cape Town. The dis­pute over the own­er­ship of the wreck was set­tled be­tween the Bri­tish and South African gov­ern­ments in 1989, with the gold re­cov­ered be­ing shared.

The Dod­ing­ton was wrecked on July 17 1755 on a reef off Bird Is­land near Port El­iz­a­beth. The ves­sel was car­ry­ing a con­sign­ment of gold and sil­ver, of which about 1,200 gold coins es­caped the loot­ers and was re­cov­ered. A third of the coins was re­turned

Pic­ture: iSTOCK

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