It’s impossible to count the number of queries received on this topic so the following should be good news for many family historians
The new FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ has added UK Maritime Births, Marriages and Deaths 1787-1933. For anyone who believes an ancestor may have died (or been born or married) while at sea between UK and South Africa - travelling in either direction – this is a search worth doing and it is free.
On the main page, scroll down to Browse by Location, then click on United Kingdom and Ireland. Up comes the list of available Historical Record Collections. Scroll down to UK Maritime Births, Marriages and Deaths 1787-1933. Click on that and fill in the resulting search form as best you can depending on how much you know: surname is obviously a must, and if you can include two forenames that could be helpful in identifying a specific person with a commonly-found surname. Choose the type of event – birth, marriage or death – and give a reasonable date parameter.
Testing this facility, I instantly found a relevant record for a death at sea: the ship was on a voyage from SA to UK in the mid-1880s. The first name of the deceased was given as Ellen, though family information gave her name as Helen. Since this person was of Scottish origin, and Ellen and Helen are virtually interchangeable in Scotland, this slight variation is acceptable. The middle initial given on the death record is as it should be and provides confirmation that this is the right person. The year of death, 1885, also fits.
I clicked on the name of the deceased: FamilySearch directed me to an image of the record viewable on a partner site www.findmypast.co.uk stating that ‘By clicking here you will be leaving FamilySearch.org. (fees and other terms may apply)’. Having a subscription to findmypast I followed the instruction and obtained an image file showing the death listed in the relevant register: as well as age (again confirming identity), cause of death was given, precise day, month and year of death, and name of ship.
'... when we go back to the sea,
we are going back from whence we came ...'