Historical Mossel Bay
Mossel Bay, the 1st town in South Africa
3 February 1488
Mossel Bay lies on the southern coast of South Africa, east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of Knysna. It lies on the Indian Ocean coast and is part of the Garden Route.
The Bartolomeu Dias plaque in Mossel Bay
The colonial history of Mossel Bay begins in the 15th century with the landing of Bartholomeu Dias de Novaes at the present Munro's Beach on the 3rd of February 1488, the holy day of Saint Blasius (St Blaise). St Blaise is the patron saint for healing sore throats, and its latin meaning is “lisp or stutter”.
Dias named the bay Aguada de São Bras ("Watering place of St. Blaise") or Angra de São Bras ("Bay of St. Blaise") and today it is known as Cape St Blaize.
For Dias, the perennial spring near the shore provided fresh water. But it wasn't only their quest for fresh water that made this bay special. Here he bartered live-stock from the Khoikhoi. Due probably to a lack of understanding, a crossbow was fired killing one of the Khoi. Apparently the locals had become wary of the "foreigners" because quite a few skirmishes were documented between them.
The name Mossel Bay, which means "Bay of Mussels," was maybe given by Paulus van Caerden, a Dutch navigator, on the 8th of July 1601 when he found a collection of mussel shells in a cave at the headland of Cape St Blaize. The mussels were used to replenish their stores and they found that mussels were a most welcome addition to the diet of his crew. Van Caerden also called a nearby bay, where he found cattle herders, Vlees Bay (Bay of Meat).
The eastern coast of South Africa mapped by de Houtman
Cornelius de Houtman, a Dutch traveller, could have given Mossel Bay its name as he arrived in August 1595 and during his stay, drew an extensive map of the bay, including the island.
Although Mossel Bay was used as a regular stopover for outbound and inbound Portuguese and later Dutch fleets looking for fresh water, both nations later decided to establish permanent bases elsewhere. The Portuguese developed Lourenço Marques and the Dutch chose Table Bay (Cape Town).
It was not until 1734 that the area received any serious attention with regards to colonization. In that year the governor of the Cape, Jan de la Fontaine, visited Mosselbaai and proclaimed it part of the Dutch colony by erecting a stone beacon displaying the coats of arms of the Dutch Republic and the Dutch East India Company. This was necessary since the Vrijburgher cattle farmers had already settled near the Groot Brakrivier by ca.1730.
Iin 1745 it was decided to extend the eastern border of the Cape Colony to the Groot Brakrivier.
The new territory was placed under the jurisdiction of the landdrost in Swellendam. The first official structure of the new town was a granary, built in 1787. The following year saw the first shipment of grain to be exported – to Batavia.
Later Mossel Bay was developed as a ward of George, at that time the principal town in the area, but on the 18th of March 1848 Mossel Bay became the centre of a separate magistracy, and included the towns of Fransmanshoek, Groot-Brakrivier, Hartenbos, Kanon, Klein-Brakrivier, Reebok, Tergniet, Vleesbaai and other small hamlets.
At first the town was called Aliwal South, but the name Aliwal South never really caught on, especially because of confusion with another town in South Africa called Aliwal North, and the town was renamed Mossel Bay.
In 1852 the town of Mossel Bay received municipal status.
By 1902 a new harbour was built and soon the Mossel Bay boating company boasted of being able to clear and dispatch goods within 2 hours of a ships arrival. Fishing, both recreational and commercial, to this day remains an integral part of Mossel Bay.
The harbour has more recently been improved to meet the growing demands of the fishing fleet and, of course the Petrol SA project.
Some exclusive property development sites have been developed over the last 10 years, namely Mossel Bay Country Estate Nature Reserve and Golf Club, Nautilus Bay, Fisherman’s Village, Diaz Beach and the recently launched Garden Route Casino.
When the White explorations of Africa, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America, India, China and Japan, are reviewed by historians, a factor that is often ignored is the staggering disparity in technology between the White explorers and the Native peoples. This was the only reason why it was the Whites who explored and colonized the rest of the world, and not the other way round.
In Africa, despite the earlier contact the Blacks had had with the original Egyptians, and then later the mixed race Arabic/Semitic nations (who had sent slave hunting expeditions far south into Africa), the vast majority of Black tribes were
massively technologically inferior to the Whites at the time of the exploration of that continent. The overwhelming technological superiority of early White explorers more often than not simply overawed non-White locals, who either fled in terror or were
utterly cowed by the sight of the White men, in their ships, clothes, guns, steel and horses.
In the diary of the English explorer Livingstone, for example, mention is made of an entire Black village of thousands in what is today the Congo, turning out to view his wheeled cart - as they had never seen a wheel before - this in 1871.
It is little wonder then that attitudes of the time were shaped by a sense of White superiority - and without understanding this mindset, the whole pattern of colonial history becomes incomprehensible and meaningless.
Nomadic Khoisan people were the first inhabitants of the Mossel Bay area. Caves in which the remains of several Khoisan settlements have been found are located nearby, with the one located at the starting point of the walking trail to the nearby town of Dana Bay, now a national monument. A Khoisan cultural village is also located at the cave, but has been criticised for being “commercial”.
Other tribes also lived in the area, including the Gouriquas. A more recent discovery at nearby Pinnacle Point is claimed to be the earliest evidence of human seaside settlement.
These are the various groups forming the Nama, Khoi or Hottentot (old Dutch meaning "Stutterers" - a reflection on their speech) people who kept cattle, goats and sheep.
They were very wide spread with pockets found all over southern Africa
and became very mixed during the white occupation of the subcontinent. Other groups who spoke closely related languages but lived as Hunter/gatherers (Like the Central and Namib groups) have been kept separate here to distinguish their very different
life styles and original locations. The exception is the Strandloper (Cape Coastal Hunter/gatherer) group who, although having no livestock, seemed more closely akin to the Khoi than nearby Bushman groups.
The Bushmen, often referred to as the San or the generic term Khoisan, are the remnants of Africa's oldest cultural group, genetically the closest surviving people to the original Homo-Sapien, core from which the Negro emerged.
Morning food gathering by Bushmen
They are small in stature generally with light yellowish skin, which wrinkles very early in life. Despite the later massive expansion of the pastoral and agrarian tribal cultures, those Bushman groups that utilised environments that were unsuitable for farming, survived until fairly recently with a high level of genetic purity. They were hunter/gatherers, with traditionally about 70/80% of their diet consisting of plantfood, including berries, nuts, roots and melons gathered primarily by the women. The remaining 20/30% was meat, hunted by the men, using poisoned arrows and spears. Their hunting & gathering economy and social structure had remained virtually unchanged for tens of thousands of years until very recently. The Bushmen did not farm or keep livestock,
having no concept of the ownership of land or animal and were generally nomadic.
Khoi-San, also written Khoisan, is the term most applied by academia today, referring to the Bushman/Khoi gene pool or, as is often stated, applying to all those people sharing related languages that use the Click consonants. The Khoi-San people were already living in the Southern parts of South Africa when the first White Europeans set foot in South Africa.
The Mossel Bay area has been inhabited by the Gouriqua, an indigenous Khoikhoi tribe who were mainly cattle owners and hunters, for as long as living memory can recall. However, on 3 February 1488, Portuguese seafarer and explorer, Bartholomew
Dias set foot on South African soil in Mossel Bay and unwittingly set in motion the process to establish the present day South Africa with its rich ethnic diversity. Today, the Khoi-San can still be seen in the Karoo region but virtually none live purely by hunting and gathering anymore.
It is written up that the Khoikhoi fled from Dias and when the Portuguese helped themselves to fresh water from water-holes, they were stoned by the Khoikhoi from a hill as the water was regarded as being owned by the latter, and expected the Portuguese to ask permission first. Despite the language barrier, the Portuguese and Khoikhoi bartered for fresh water and fresh meat to be shipped onboard - in exchange for metal items (eg knives) and other precious stones provided by the sailors. The language barrier in particular was the reason the Gouriqua Khoikhoi and the Portuguese did not trust each other, and this often lead to violence.
Vasco Da Gama history
Vasco da Gama was born to Estevao da Gama and Idsabel Sodre in 1460 in Sines, Province of Alemtejo, Portugal.
He came from a noble Portuguese family and his father was a distinguished soldier who attended the Portuguese court. Vasco da Gama was well educated as befitted his status and was taught several languages, physics, geometry, mathematics and astronomy.
Vasco da Gama, was one of the most successful in the Age of Discovery and the commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India. He is one of the most famous and celebrated explorers, being the first European to reach India through sea.
This discovery was very impactful and paved the way for the Portuguese to establish a long lasting colonial empire in Asia. The route meant that the Portuguese wouldn't need to cross the highly disputed Mediterranean nor the dangerous Arabia and that the whole voyage would be made by sea.
In January, 1497, King Manual l of Portugal commanded Vasco da Gama to find a route to India around Africa. The expedition was solemnly bestowed on da Gama, and on 8 July 1497, the fleet of 4 ships (2 caracks, 1 caravel, and 1 supply ship) and 170 men sailed from Port Tagus in Lisbon under the leadership of Vasco, his brother Paulo, and Nicoláo Coelho. Two of these ships never returned and only 55 men did return - meaning over 100 men died on this voyage of discovery.
Cautiously seeking the Cape of Good Hope from the west the fleet finally sighted land on 4 November, and anchored three days later in what is today called St Helena Bay.
There a meeting of contrasting cultures occurred.
The local community appeared and barter was attempted by the Portuguese, but spices and gold were unknown to those hunter-gatherers.
On 16 November, the fleet departed and rounded the Cape Peninsula on the 22nd, only after several attempts frustrated by contrary winds.
They reached the bay of Silo Bras (Mossel Bay) on the 25th November 1497 and anchored there for 13 days. Bartolomeu Dias had been there before them, therefor it was a known source of fresh water.
Vasco da Gama Pillar built in 1498 in Malindi
In the spring of 1498 da Gama reached the East African ports of Moçambique and Mombasa, but ran into armed resistance from Arab Muslim traders at both ports.
At Malindi, on the coast of what is now Kenya, he managed to secure a pilot to guide him eastward. With the aid of Arab navigator Ahmed ibn Majid, da Gama sailed across the Arabian Sea and on May 20, 1498, reached Calicut (now Kozhikode) on the Malabar Coast of India. Da Gama thus completed the first voyage from Western Europe around Africa to the East.
He set sail for Portugal on August 29, 1498 with 5 Indian hostages. Facing unfavourable winds for much of the voyage, the return journey took three times longer than the outgoing trip. Many of da Gama’s crew—including his brother Paulo—died of scurvy before reaching Portugal. Sao Rafael (one of the ships), was burned because of the lack of crew.
On his return to Lisbon in 1499, da Gama had completed the longest recorded sea voyage ever to set sail up to that time. By pioneering the Portuguese sea route to India, da Gama established Lisbon as the centre of the European spice trade. This laid the foundation for the Portuguese Empire, which controlled trade with the ports of East Africa, southwest India, and Indonesia for centuries. He was made "Admiral of the Indian Ocean".
Three years later, he was back in India, his designs now clear, his naval force now stronger, with 20 ships given by King Manuel I, and more relentless than before.
There are accounts of reprisals against Muslim traders who opposed him, and of how his men seized a ship filled with Indians returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca and set it afire, burning every man woman and child on it alive.
During this voyage, 1502-04, he set up trading posts and fortified them, established contacts with other local chiefs — of Cochin and Cannanore among them — and laid the foundation of Portuguese power in India.
Richly rewarded by the Portuguese royal family for breaking the Arab Muslim monopoly on trade with India, da Gama settled down to profit from his ventures. For the next 20 years he saw no active sea duty.
The titles he held: ‘Admiral of the Arabian, Persian, Indian and All Oriental Seas’,
in 1519, made 1st Count of Vidiguera by King John III,
Knight of the Order of Christ,
in 1524, ‘Viceroy of India’ as appointed by the king of Portugal.
In 1524 he returned to India a third time to correct the mounting corruption among the Portuguese authorities there. He specificly went to Goa, which had become a Portuguese colony by this time. But this trip of his did not last long, for within 3 months of arrival, he succumbed to an illness, his last days marked by a harrowing fear of the dark.
Cochin, on the Malabar coast in India is where Vasco died on Christmas Eve 1524, but his remains were taken to Vidiguera, Lisbon some years later to be interred there with honours, buried at the Convent of Our Lady of the Relics.
1880 the remains of Vasco da Gama are dug up and moved from original grave at the Convent of Our Lady of the Relics, to the Monistary of Jeronimos. This is done in respect for Vasco da Gama, for he is given the privilege of resting in peace along side many of the Portuguese kings.
Tapestry in silk and wool; Belgian workshop at Tournai. Early 16th century; National Museum of Ancient Arts at Lisbon, Portugal
Monuments to Vasco da Gama exist everywhere:
at Sines, his birthplace
in Lisbon; at Malindi in Kenya; and, of course, in Goa.
One of the most striking of these, however, took the form of a great figurative tapestry.
Regarded as possibly the most important art work commissioned by Manuel I of Portugal, the king at whose bidding Vasco da Gama set off for India — the tapestry was conceived as a cycle of 26 large pieces. One of them measured four metres in height and seven and a half metres in width, celebrating the ‘Conquest of India’.
The gigantic task — figure piled upon figure, man-of-war followed by another great man-of-war — was entrusted in 1510 to a famous carpet and tapestry-weaving factory of Tournai in Belgium. When finished, it came to adorn the royal palace where it served much more than a decorative end: it made a powerful political statement.
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