Portuguese sailors first Europeans in the Cape

Many think that Dutch commander Jan van Riebeeck was the first European to arrive in the Cape in 1652. It was Portuguese mariner Bartolomeu Dias and his crew, who preceded the Dutch sailors by just less than 200 years.

Dias and his men were tasked to find a trade route around the southern tip of Africa via Congo, Angola and Walvis Bay, landing in what is now known as Mossel Bay. Running short of supplies and a restless crew due to the stormy ocean, Dias and his crew headed back to their home country, sailing around Cape Point, calling it the Cape of Storms, later changed to the Cape of Good Hope by the King of Portugal, opening the sea route from the West to the East.
Dias has been honoured with a statue on the Heerengracht at the bottom end of Adderley Street in Cape Town. It was donated by the Portuguese government in 1952. A statue of Dias can also be seen in Mossel Bay, as well as in South Africa House in London.

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