On Monday we woke up to grey skies and water falling from the skies. After checking that it wasn’t the end of the world arriving six months late, we headed in to Mossel Bay for a bit of museuming and a spot of shopping at the covered flea market. We had last been to the Dias Museum exactly four years ago (give or take a couple of days) on our honeymoon. Here are some photos.
I’ve mentioned Bartolomeu Dias in a previous post. In 1488 he was the first European (as far as we know) to travel beyond the southern tip of Africa. After landing at Mossel Bay he made it as far as a third of the way between what is today known as Port Elizabeth and East London before his crew forced him to turn back due to fears that their supplies will run out. Consequently Dias never found a route to India as had been the intention, that honour going to his countryman, Vasco da Gama.
On his return journey Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope (originally dubbed the Cape of Storms by Dias) having sailed past it far offshore the first time. Twelve years later, in 1500, his ship was lost in a storm off that very Cape. This ship is a full-scale replica that was built in Portugal and sailed along Dias’s original route to Mossel Bay for the 500 year commemoration of his voyage and is housed in the museum complex. You can even go aboard and imagine yourself you’re an explorer (or pirate if that’s more your thing – in fact, we were boarded by a three-feet-tall one wielding a foam sword).
As part of the celebrations in 1988 Afrikaans singer, Carike Keuzenkamp, recorded a song about Dias’s journey. During the filming of the music video aboard the ship she almost went overboard due to the weight of the period Portuguese dress she was wearing. The dress is also on display in the museum.
This tree is believed to be South Africa’s first post office. Quoting from the Dias Museum webpage, “In 1500 Pedro de Ataide, Commander of one of Cabral’s ships, on his return journey from the east, left a letter of importance in a shoe or iron pot under or near a large tree. In 1501 this letter was found by Joao da Nova, commander of the third East India fleet en route to India.”
The tree (a Milkwood) is today a national monument. The stone boot in the picture is a post box still being serviced by the SA Post Office and letters mailed there receive a special frank during sorting.
Da Nova also built a small chapel here (no longer in existence) out of thanks for finding the message which was quite important. That chapel was the first place of worship built in South Africa and its position is marked with a stone cross.
These mallard ducks inhabit the natural fountain that Dias and subsequent explorers used as a fresh water source during their journeys.
Also on the premises is a shell museum/aquarium that has a touch-tank – the aquarium equivalent to a petting zoo, you can stick your fingers into anemones and feel them grab onto you or even feed them little slimy creatures. It’s great fun. You’re not allowed to play with the octopus, though. In fact, they get very upset if you try to remove him from his tank, so don’t try.