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Explorers and Merchants
(Page 2)
Sea Merchants and the Cape of Good Hope
The Iberians (Portuguese and Spanish) dominated the trade route via the Cape throughout the sixteenth century.

The Portuguese maintained a number of strategic bases in East Africa and Asia to support their fleets - but the Cape was not one of them. Antonio de Saldanha was probably the first man to sail into Table Bay, but there he was wounded when a misunderstanding developed between his sailors and the Khoekhoe. More clashes followed and the Khoekhoe became regarded as 'dangerous cannibals' to be avoided (more..).

The Cape also developed a fearsome reputation among Iberian sailors for its dangerous seas. Dias - the first to call it a 'Cape of Storms' - disappeared without trace, with half his fleet, when trying to round the Cape on the expedition of 1500.

Terrifying legends developed about the Cape. Cameon in 'the Lusiads' compared the Cape to the fearsome monster Adamastor. Offended by his discovery Adamastor sends storms upon passing ships.

There was also the story of the Flying Dutchman - of a sea captain on a ghost ship, cursed to forever battle the Cape's storms (later, Wagner made the story into an opera). The Iberians grew wary, and avoided lingering at the Cape, mindful of curses, storms and dangerous locals. Thus, the Cape remained isolated.

An Englishman, however, had a very different perspective, and he set the tone for the English attitude to the Cape. Sir Francis Drake, pursued by the Spanish fleet, his ship laden with booty, escaped the Pacific by heading west and circumnavigating the world.

He encountered the Cape Peninsula in fair weather and later affirmed it 'the fairest Cape and the most stately thing we saw in the whole circumference of the globe.' He arrived in England in 1580, after three years at sea.
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In this period of Cape History:


Portuguese Explorers

Merchant Sailors

The Dutch and British

A New Base

Bibliography & Contacts


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