The Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum

This building, dating from 1901, served as a wheat mill and a sawmill before it was converted into the Maritime Museum in 1987. 

Its high walls, lofty interior areas and connecting stairways made it ideal for use as a museum. The mill was erected on this site in order to be near the coastline and the Mossel Bay – Oudtshoorn railway line, which was then being constructed. Most of its original stone exterior was retained.

The Maritime Museum - Dias Museum Complex

To our knowledge, the first extension to the mill was made in 1915 when its southern side was extended towards Market Street. In 1919 the building was bought by the S.A. Milling Corporation and once more extended – this time northwards towards the railway line. Major renovations were carried out in 1946 to increase output. The final extension – a store - was added in 1953.

Steam-driven milling equipment was used until 1922 when Mossel Bay got electricity. In 1951 the building was sold to the South-Western Wheat Corporation and used as a warehouse.

Since its reconstruction, the theme of the Maritime Museum has been the history of the voyages of colonial expansion around the southern coast of Africa. 

A replica of the caravel used by Bartolomeu Dias to round the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 currently dominates the interior of the museum. Various maritime exhibitions depict the 'successes' and 'failures' of the Portuguese, Dutch and English seafarers around the south-eastern coast of Africa.

A blue-and-white ceramic tile mural in the foyer depicts a dangerous mythological creature, Adamastor, first created for the Portuguese epic poem The Luciads by Luis Vaz de Camões (1524-1580). Adamastor symbolized the dangerous natural forces Portuguese seafarers encountered and then overcame at the 'Cape of Storms' to find a sea route to India. 

Since 2002 displays depicting the history of the town, can be seen on the upper level of the Maritime Museum.


Fagan, G. & Axelson, E. (1984): Die Posboom-Provinsiale Museumkompleks, Mosselbaai. Departement van Natuur- en Omgewingsbewaring van die Provinsiale Administrasie van die Kaap die Goeie Hoop, Printed by Creda Press, Cape Town.

Ferreira, O.J.O. (1995): Adamastor, gees van die Stormkaap, Pretoria: Eie uitgawe.   

LANTERN, Januarie (1988): Tydskrif vir Kennis en Kultuur.  Jaargang, 37, nr.1 (Stigting vir Onderwys, Wetenskap en Tegnologie, Dept. van Nasionale Opvoeding, Pretoria)

Stander, S. (1988): Mosselbaai 500 jaar. Munisipaliteit van Mosselbaai. Gedruk en gebind deur Clyson Printers, Maitland, Kaapstad.

Smith, M. van Wyk. (1988): Shades of Adamastor Africa and the Portuguese connection:  An anthology of poetry, Grahamstown.

Replica of 1488 Bartolomeu Dias Caravel

A replica of the 1488 Bartolomeu Dias Caravel is currently the centrepiece of the Maritime Museum exhibitions. It was built for the 1988 500-year commemoration of Dias’s voyage around the southern tip of Africa. 

At the time Portuguese caravels were two- or three-mast, shallow-draught ships that played an important role in Portuguese maritime history. They were the first deep-sea ships, characterised by the Christian cross appearing on their sails, used by Portuguese seafarers on trade voyages.

The Portuguese Sail & Training Association (APORVELA) was tasked to build a 'caravel-type' for the planned commemoration. The historical appearance of the caravel was maintained in the design of the topsides, deck arrangement, steering gear, masting, rigging and sails. However, below deck, the design was adapted to allow for modern sleeping arrangements and a motorised engine. The historical 15th-century design did not make provision for sleeping arrangements. 

The replica caravel was built in the shipyard of Samuel & Filho’s in Vila do Condo, near Oporto in Portugal. The hull was made of pine and oak and equals the width of a modern tug. It had a displacement of about 130 tons, which included 37 tons of ballast, made up of concrete and granite blocks from Lisbon. The ship has two masts and two lateen sails.

The 1988 voyage took three months from Portugal to Mossel Bay. An engine was installed to make sure the caravel arrived on time for the festival that took place on 3rd February 1988.

During the restoration of the building in 1987, an opening was left in the back wall. After the caravel was partially disassembled in 1988, she was hauled on greased sleepers and lifted inside the museum with hydraulic machinery.

Maritime Museum

1988 Commemoration of Dias’s voyage

A National Festival Committee Dias was established in 1987 to arrange the commemoration of the voyage of Bartolomeu Dias 500 years earlier.

King João II wanted Portugal to have a major stake in the lucrative spice trade. He, therefore, appointed Bartolomeu Dias to search for a sea route to India as an alternative to the dangerous overland route. Portugal’s aim in the Indian Ocean was to ensure the control of the spice trade.  Dias left Lisbon in August 1487 with three caravels and found a navigable passage from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. This paved the way for trade between Europe, Africa, and India.

Dias named Mossel Bay Aguada de São Brás. This was in honour of Saint Blaise, an Armenian healer and bishop, whose feast day is celebrated on 3 February; the day Dias landed at Mossel Bay. 

In 1988 Captain Emilio Carlos de Sousa and his crew sailed from Portugal aboard the newly reconstructed caravel, named Bartolomeu Dias, with the aim to arrive at Mossel Bay on 3 February 1988 – exactly 500 years after Dias’s arrival. The 17 crew members were Portuguese and South African volunteers.



Axelson, E. (ed) (1988): Dias and his successors.  Saayman & Weber, Cape Town.

Boorstin, D. J. (1987): The Portuguese Discoverers. The National Board for the celebration of Portuguese Discoveries, Lisbon.

Goldsmith-Carter, G. (1969): Sailing Ships and Sailing Craft. Hamlyn Publishing Group, London.

Humble, R. (1978): The Seafarers. The explorers. Time-Life Books, Amsterdam.

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.

Dias 88: Souvenir Festival Programme, 1488-1988.

Leitão, M: The discovery of the African Coast and the gateway to India. The Portuguese Caravels – “Bartolomeu Dias” 1987 -1988.

Maritime Museum

Entrance Fees - Complex

Entrance Fees

Complex Entry

Adults: R 30
Pensioners (SA Citizens): R 20
Scholars Gr1 - 12: R 10

Preschoolers: Free

Entrance Fees - Complex & Caravel

Notice to Visitors

Caravel Closure

We regret to inform you that the Caravel is temporarily closed until further notice for your safety.

Opening Hours
  • Monday To Friday 09:00 to 16h45
  • Saturday & Public Holidays09:00 to 15:45
  • Sunday09:00 to 15:45

Contact Info

+27 (0)44 691 1067


1 Market Street

Mossel Bay, South Africa