The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa is also known as the “Cape of Storms”. Many seafarers lost their lives while trying to sail around this legendary headland. Today, many shipwrecks stand testament to these treacherous waters.
How did the Cape of Good Hope get its name? Who discovered it? Here, we are taking a short trip into the history of this famous cape in South Africa.
Bartolomeu Dias (or Bartholomew Diaz) – “Cape of Storms” (1488)
In 1488, the Portuguese seafarer Bartolomeu Dias was the first person to circumnavigate the Cape Peninsula. He was travelling on behalf of Prince Henry the Navigator. The aim was to establish new sea routes towards the East. It is not officially proven that he sailed around the Cape of Good Hope because it was a secret mission. Bartolomeu Dias named this area the “Cape of Storms”.
Vasco da Gama – “Cape of Good Hope” (1498)
Ten years later, Vasco da Game set sail along the same route to establish new trade routes towards India and Asia.
Because the prospects of finding new trade routes were looking good, King John II of Portugal was optimistic and named this area the “Cape of Good Hope”.
The first lighthouse at Cape Point was built because of Vasco da Gama. Today, this lighthouse acts as a central control station for all South African lighthouses. It is located at the Cape Point summit (which is also called “Da Game Peak”).
Sir Francis Drake (1580)
In 1580, the English explorer and sea captain Sir Francis Drake called the Cape of Good Hope the fairest cape in the whole world. (“This Cape is the most stately thing and the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth”).
The Legend of the Flying Dutchman
The legend of the “Flying Dutchman” tells the story of Hendrick van der Decken, a Dutch seafarer. In the 17th century, he navigated his ship from Asia back to the Netherlands. As he was about to set sail around the Cape of Good Hope, a violent storm struck. His crew begged Heinrich not to sail any further but the captain said he wanted to circumnavigate this area, even if he needed the help of the devil.
This blasphemy sealed the fate of this ship. It was cursed, disappeared into the fog and ended up as a ghost ship at the Cape of Good Hope.
Names – From “Cape of Storms” to “Cape of Good Hope”