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A fact finding history of the 1487-88 voyage that rounded the Cape of Good Hope. Part 2


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Bartholomew Diaz Pt 2 and other voyages of exploration along the Namibia Coast

Other Historical Voyages along the Namibian Coast  

Vasco da Gama was Commander in Chief of the next voyage of discovery. The fleet of four ships, sailed from Lisbon on 8 July 1497 on a course that took them to the Canary Isles then to Terra Alta, just south of Cape Bojador, following the coast to Rio do Ouro. They then sailed south west to the Cape Verde Islands from where they rounded 'bulge' of Africa. . Surviving reports of Vasco Da Gama's voyage make no reference to Namibia. He rounded the Cape and established the route to Goa in India.


It is interesting to note that Bartholomew Diaz sailed with the Vasco da Gama fleet as far as Sao Jorge de Mina.


Bartholomew Diaz and a brief discussion about Brazil.

Duarte Pacheco Pereira wrote that in 1498 King Manuel, "ordered us to discover the Western region (of the Atlantic), a very large land mass...located beyond the greatness of the ocean... this distant land is densely populated and extends 28½º (South) on the other side of the Equator towards the Antarctic Pole." On this evidence It is thought that Brazil may have been discovered in 1498, and that the voyage of Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500 was merely the "official celebration of discovery". The voyages of discovery had sent small fleets of up to 4 ships into the unknown. Whereas Cabral commanded an Armada of 13 ships carrying over 1500 men, including Bartholomew Diaz,  that sailed form Lisbon on 9 March 1500. Could this be an indication that the duration of the voyage to the great land that lay to the west was known of, and that the section of coastline targeted has been previously charted.


Cabral sailed from Brazil on 3 May 1500 and headed for the Cape of Good Hope where on 29 May the fleet was ravaged by a storm in which 4 ships were lost along with the life of Bartholomew Diaz.



Padrao Memorial to Portuguese Navigators Lisbon

Navigators Padrao Lisbon

Bartholomew Diaz 500 Anniversary Stamp

Diaz 500yrs Anniversary

Portuguese Caravel

Portuguese Caravel

Portuguese Flag 15th Century

Portuguese Flag

Mid 15th Century

Henriki Martelli Germani Map 1489

Henricus Martellus Germanus Map of 1489


The Dutch and British Expeditions. 

1652,  south at the Cape of Good Hope the Dutch East India Company, under the supervision of Jan van Riebeek, established a strategic supply station. Staffed by a well trained and contracted labour force of artisans and farmers who could not only provide fresh meat and vegetables and fruit for the ships, but also carry our repairs and tend to the needs of any sickened or injured crew members.

1670, the company sent the small ship Gundle along the West Coast to chart all suitable landing places. Captain GR Muys recorded in the ship’s log that they made a short stay at Angra Pequena on 26 April.

1677, the Bode captained by CT Wobma sailed to the mouth of the Kuiseb River where they were engaged in armed conflict with the local Nama natives.


In 1723, the Dutch West India-man Waerwijk reported having stayed over at what the Portuguese mariners had come to know as the Bahia Das Balhias The Bay of Whales. The Dutch named the place Walfische Bay.

In 1731, the Dutch ceased their whaling activities along the west coats of Namibia.

1784 - 1786, a British expedition lead by HR.Popham visited Angra Pequena and noted the remains of the Diaz Cross

1786, the British ship Nautilus under the command of Thomas Bolder Thompson surveyed the coast, looking for a suitable location where hardy convicts might be able to found a settlement, but the land was considered to be too hostile. In view of this report the British authorities chose their further and quite recent possession of Australia to be the destination for their prisoners. The record of the voyage shows that they anchored for a while at Angra Pequena, and records their observations of the Diaz Cross which noted to be in a poor condition. The message sent out by King John some three centuries earlier had been virtually obliterated by the elements.

1793, The Dutch sent the 500 ton Frigate Meermin along the West Coast of Namibia to claim sovereignty over places considered suitable as anchorage locations. The captain planted the Dutch flag at Angra Pequena, Halifax Island and Golfo da Conceico and Walfische Bay. The ship also laid anchor off the 'Praai das Verdes'. Sebastion van Reenen records of his visit ashore where he explored the mouth of the river (possibly the Swakop) in hopes of finding traces of copper or gold. He also hoped to be able to make some contact with the Herero people, for stories of their vast cattle herds had filtered as far south as Cape Town. Accompanying him was Pieter Pienaar, the hunter, who wrote of his encounters with Elephant, Rhino, and Buck that roamed in the vicinity of the riverbed. 

1795, the British occupied the then Dutch held Cape in South Africa. They were quick to dispatch the warship Star to hoist the English flag at all of the possible anchorage points from the Cape Point to 15 deg south, where the present day Namibe in Angola. The British also claimed to having the exclusive rights to catch whales and seals along this coastline of over 2000km. However  no official declaration of sovereignty was made by the British Government to the territory.

1825 the British ship HMS Barracuda recorded its brief stay in at Angra Pequena. A Lieutenant T. Botelar wrote that the Diaz Cross was in poor condition and had been partially destroyed. Possibly by somebody under the illusion that coins or even treasure may have buried underneath it.  



The Incident Over Guano, and the Cross.
1842 the guano deposits on the offshore islands, especially on Ichabo Island where in places it lay over 22 meters in depth, started to be exploited. The guano was much sought after as a fertilizer and commanded a high market price. A ‘guano rush’ ensued, and at times over twenty ships would be anchored around the Islands. The competition to harvest and load the guano became so fierce, with roughened gangs of guano collectors often getting involved in violent clashes that the British Authorities in Cape Town were forced to dispatch a gunboat to the area to restore some form of order.
1855 there were only four broken pieces of the Diaz Cross laying at the rocky outpost these were loaded onto a ship by some guano collectors and taken to Cape Town. One of these pieces can be seen in the Museum there.
Some years later The Portuguese laid claim to two of the pieces of the Diaz Cross which were shipped, to Lisbon where they were fitted together and are now displayed in the Geographical Society’s Museum.
The guano industry brought attention to the area and in 1856 firm of De Pass, Spence & Company started a fishing and sealing factory. They began exporting dried fish and oils to Cape Town, and later they built a ship repair yard.

1861 Sir George Grey, Governor of the Cape formally proclaimed the annexation of the guano islands. This was repealed for the duration of the American civil war for diplomatic reasons, and the islands were re-annexed in 1865.
Sir George was later appointed as the Governor of New Zealand, and with him he took as a memento, one of the pieces of the Diaz Cross that had been sent to Cape Town was. It is now displayed in the Grey Collection of the Auckland Library and Art Gallery.
1953 Professor Eric Axelson, his wife, and Dr C. Lemmer were excavating on the Dias point at the place where the lighthouse Fog-Horn is located. The professor believed that this would have been the original location point for the padrao, and they uncovered the fragments (the root)  of the Diaz Cross. They could be viewed at the Alte Feste Museum in Windhoek. Sadly during the 1990s they were 'lost'. 


Acknowledgements and further reading:  H2, H8, H12, H13, H15, H16. P1,


Map of Namibia

Getting Here

Map Directions

What to See

Luderitz Map

Map Directions

Peninsular Map

Diaz Cross

Kolmanskop Tour

Of Interest

Adolf Lüderitz

Bartholomew Diaz

Luderitz Diamonds




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