The Reconstructed Freshwater Spring
This freshwater spring at the Museum marks the site thought to be where the first conflict between the local Khoekhoen and the Portuguese seafarers.
After sailing past the southern tip of Africa, Bartolomeu Dias’s first landing place was at the bay of St. Blaize. They landed here to refill their water containers at a freshwater spring that Dias named Aquada de São Brás (watering place of St. Blaize).
The earliest reference to the water supply in Mossel Bay is credited to the ship’s pilot Pêro d’ Alenquer who sailed with Dias and Da Gama. He remarked that when Dias landed at São Brás to take in water, it was from a well near the beach.
Historical evidence however puts the position of the freshwater spring at the edge of Munro Bay. Detailed maps of Munro Bay recorded at least one spring on shore. Three more springs have been in located in the valley opposite the bay. Currently it is therefore assumed that the entire valley was regarded by the Portuguese as the watering place of St. Blaize. In future, further historical archaeological evidence might determine the original watering position or spring that was used by these seafarers.
The local Khoekhoen, possibly Gouriqua, were wary of the arrival of Dias and his men. and drove their cattle and sheep inland when the Portuguese landed.
Communication between the Khoekhoen and the Portuguese would be near impossible, and no bartering took place. The seafarers proceeded to fill their water containers at the freshwater spring without permission from the
Khoekhoen in who’s territory they were.
The Khoekhoen reportedly threw stones at the Portuguese. One of their men was killed with a crossbow as the Portuguese retaliated. Previously Dias’s voyage was celebrated as the beginning of a new era of European expansion and trade. However, this violent encounter in present-day Mossel Bay is now also understood to signify the beginning of centuries of colonialization, dispossession and oppression for the indigenous people of southern Africa.
Axelson, E. (ed) (1988): Dias and his successors. Saayman & Weber, Cape Town. Barker, B.J. (Undated): Dias and Da Gama: the Portuguese discovery of the Cape Sea route, Struik, Cape Town. De Kock, W J (1957): Portugese ontdekkers om die Kaap: Die Europese aanraking met Suidelike Afrika, 1415–1600, Balkema, Kaapstad. Ferreira, O.J.O. (2005): Dias, Da Gama en die Khoikhoin: ‘n Ontmoeting van kulture aan die suidpunt van Afrika. Gepubliseer deur Adamastor, Jeffreysbaai & Pretoria. Gon, P. (1988): Early Navigators. AD. Donker/ Publisher. (Pty) Ltd, Craighall. Peringuey, L. (1950): Inscriptions left by early European navigators on their way to the East. (Reprinted from the “Annals of the South African Museum”, Vol. XIII) LANTERN, January (1988): Tydskrif vir Kennis en Kultuur. Jaargang, 37, nr. 1 (Stigting vir Onderwys, Wetenskap en Tegnologie, Dept. van Nasionale Opvoeding, Pretoria) Ravenstein, E.G. (1986): The voyages of Diego Cao and Bartolomeu Dias 1482-88. Reprinted from The Geographical Journal, vol. 16, no. 6, December 1900, pp.625-650. The State Library, Pretoria.