Introduction to the Resolutions
of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope

History of the Cape of Good Hope

A Portuguese discovers the sea route from Europe to India

In August 1486 the Portuguese navigator, Bartholomeu Dias, set sail from the Tagus River at Lisbon with his fleet of two small vessels and a cargo ship. The objective of his journey was to sail round the southern point of Africa in order find a seaway and a trade route to India . At Angra Pequena (now Lüderitzbucht , Namibia ) he erected a cross. Then a tremendous storm forced his ships off course and he and his crew did not reach land until they entered the bay, which is known today as Mossel Bay . It was then that Dias realised that they had already passed the tip of Africa and had actually discovered the sea route to the East. The indigenous Khoi pastoralists fled when they saw the ships entering the bay. On the island of St. Croix near Algoa Bay he also erected a cross and probably kept on sailing until they reached the Fish River in the present Eastern Cape . There the small fleet had to turn back because of insufficient supplies on board. On his return voyage Dias, elated by the realisation of having discovered the sea route to India , changed the name Cabo Tormentoso ‘cape of storms’ to Cabo da boa Esperanza ‘cape of good hope’.

Portugal continued the expansion of its Indian empire and Portuguese fleets to the East regularly passed the Cape . In 1498 Vasco da Gama named the above-mentioned bay where Dias landed Aguada de Sâo Bras ‘fountain-head of St. Blaize’. On his voyage to India (1501-1502) Joâo de Nova and his fleet also visited the bay and in his turn he named it Golfo dos Vaqueiros ‘bay of herdsmen’. He also built a small chapel, the first Christian structure erected in South Africa . De Nova continued his journey and reached Rio de la Goa ‘river of the lake’, the place that was named in 1544 by Lourenço Marques after himself. In 1503 one of the three squadrons belonging to this fleet was under the command of Antonio de Saldanha who made a navigational error and eventually reached the bay now known as Table Bay . In March 1510 the Portuguese viceroy Francisco d’ Almeida who had just established Portuguese authority in the Indian Ocean, and a number of his high-ranking officers were killed in Table Bay during a skirmish with a group of Khoi. The inhospitable coastline of Southern Africa was the most important reason why the Portuguese rulers were not interested in occupying this country.



previous Contents of the introduction next

Site by Hic et Nunc