Dias Maritime Museum
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Fri 10 Jan 2020 23:47
Dias Maritime Museum
On entering the Maritime Museum, we were met by Bartholomew Dias.
We bimbled down some steps and ahead of us was an impressive wall map. The Cantino Planisphere, 1502. “The Precious Jewel of Portuguese Cartography” made by an unknown Portuguese cartographer in 1502, after Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, was acquired clandestinely in Lisbon by the Italian, Alberto Cantino. Possible the Padrao or standard map of the world, on which new discoveries was recorded.
Of course we rushed up to press the buttons. The first lit the route taken by Diogo Cao in 1482, he hugged the west coast of Africa as did Bartolomeu Dias in 1488 (harder to see the little lights as they are in a pale pink).
Vasco Da Gama’s route in 1497 (little yellow lights) that saw him stay well off the coast, the route we will take en route to St Helena.
Portuguese fashion of the day.
Then we entered the main hall and wow. Historical Background: King Joao (John) II of Portugal, inspired by his great uncle, Prince Henry the Navigator, was determined to find a sea route to India via the southern tip of Africa.
In 1482 he sent Diogo Cao with two ships to survey and chart the west coast of Africa. Cao, on his first and second voyages paved the way for Bartolomeu Dias, who left Lisbon in August 1487 with two caravels of 100 tons each, and a bigger store-ship.
Dias sailed along the coast of Africa as far south as a harbour later known as Bala dos Tigress. He passed Cao’s furthest padrao at Cape Cross. With the northern Cedarberg in sight, Dias probably grew tired of tacking against a stormy southern wind, and sailed out into the open sea.
Thus he sailed round the southern tip of Africa without realising it. It was when he steered eastward and could not any land that he took a northerly course, thereby seeing land again at the Gourtis River or Rio dos Vaqueiros.
Here the waves prevented him from landing, but on the festival day of St Blaise, he managed to do so further on in a protected cove. It later became known as “Aguada de Sao Bras” (watering place of Saint Blaise). because of the freshwater spring found there. This was later renamed Mossel Bay by the Dutch. For several years after this the Portuguese touched Sao Bras to take on fresh water and meat.
In the mid 17th century the Dutch East India Company decided to set up a refreshment station at the Cape, and it was yet another hundred years before any settlement at Mossel Bay itself was planned.
The Maritime Museum was erected in 1901 to serve as a grain and saw mill. In 1987 it was adapted to serve as a unique maritime museum. A life-size replica of Dias’ caravel is on display together with all aspects of maritime history of the early Portuguese, Dutch and English navigators.
Following Larry, Marlo and Patricia aboard, I turned right and went up the incredibly steep, narrow steps to the poop deck. Oooo not for me, the floor slanted downhill from the back and I know I would have felt very unsteady at sea, especially with such low side rails.
Looking down on Bear examining what we all at first thought was one of the life rafts.
Returning to the main deck, I started at the back. To my left was the chart table accessed only if the door was open. The rest of the room – the Round House - (a smallish area) was the tiller, and to the right...........
.......the Captain’s Cabin.
Standing beside the little row boat I could see what had interested Bear, a picture board showing the caravel’s journey to the museum. The information boards read: Caravel Bartolomeu Dias 1988. Replica ship of Bartolomeu Dias, Pioneer, Sailor and Discoverer.
This ship, the replica of one of the two ships which were the first to round the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, was built in Portugal and set sail for Mossel Bay for the 500 year commemorative celebrations to arrive here in February 1988. Weighing in at approximately 130 tons, it took this ship 3 months to follow the original journey of Bartolomeu Dias (then undertaken in 6 months).
The rowing boat on the deck was not a rescue boat but was merely used to get the crew from the Caravel to the shore (such as was the case in Mossel Bay). In the event of an emergency, the rowing boat could be used, but not support the entire crew of around 33 adult men. This replica did have safety precautions for the 17 crew members during the 1988 voyage along with modern ocean-faring equipment and an engine, so that the Bartolomeu Dias would be sea-worthy and able to complete the voyage with a smaller crew.
As seen in the Round House (below the poop deck at the Captain's Cabin), the Caravel Bartolomeu Dias was steered by means of a tiller attached to the rudder as was the case 500 years previously. The conventional round steering wheel was introduced later. The tiller required a large force to move the rudder against the pressure exerted by the sea and its currents.
One must remember that this replica ship is a full-scale model and was created to look exactly like its predecessor from the exterior. The main difference between the two ships being below deck. The replica boasts with modern luxuries such as electricity, heads (bathrooms), a galley (kitchen) and sleeping quarters on board. The original ship just had a large, single storage space below deck with no provision for living, sanitary or cooking facilities. The crew used to have to brave the elements and sleep outside on the open deck using sail-material for cover.
Marlo and I took the steep steps down to see the ‘luxuries’ for ourselves. The kitchen and heads did not inspire us to want to spend three months aboard, that’s for sure......
The forepeak storage and galley larder.
The bunks did not feel too soft.
Back on deck we took in the replica with the modern. Then went to read the whole transport story.
A model of the Dias.
A model made from icing sugar. This icing sugar Caravel was made by Mrs. Edith Conway. It took 140 hours to make and 14kg Huletts Icing Sugar. It is made entirely of icing sugar, except for the rigging and anchor chain. Mr. Pat Good of Dymond and Giddy (Pty) Ltd., representatives of S.A. Sugar Association donated it to the Museum in Mossel Bay.
As we left the museum we passed a painting of the wild sea crashing below the Mossel Bay Lighthouse. Marlo said we would all head that way and enjoy an ice cream. Yeah, a bit of wave-watching for me.
Marlo stopped on the sea front so I could watch waves hitting and filling the small lido.
We met the boys car and enjoyed an enormous ice cream each, we did have to sit to leeward as the stiff breeze wanted to make a spattered mess on our clothes. The sea was incredibly noisy as it crashed through the rocks.
I loved the crashing waves......
Best as we got looking right toward the lighthouse.
The boys went off to sort the braai meat for this evening and Marlo took Patty and me to the top, next to the lighthouse to indulge me for ten minutes more wave-watching before we headed to the supermarket. The usual refrain “shall we get one bottle of Amarula” “No best make it two”. I think best make it two will go down in history.......
The Wild Coast is certainly a befitting label......
Back home, Marlo dressed the table and I created the watermelon with hand holds.
One of Marlo’s brothers (John) and a family friend with wives joined us for a super evening, of course the meat was amazing thanks to Larry who is indeed the braai master.
ALL IN ALL FASCINATING AND WONDERFUL DAY
A FABULOUS DAY-AND MADE IT TWO