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.
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.
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.
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.
the Dutch West India-man Waerwijk reported
having stayed over at what the Portuguese mariners had come to know as
Bahia Das Balhias The Bay of Whales. The Dutch named the place
the Dutch ceased their whaling activities along the west coats of
1784 - 1786,
a British expedition lead by HR.Popham visited Angra Pequena and noted
the remains of 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
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.
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
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
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
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'.
and further reading: H2, H8, H12, H13, H15, H16. P1,