What Is the Cape of Good Hope?
The Cape of Good Hope is a set of coastal cliffs stretching out into the ocean in South Africa
. For sailors, this rocky headland has been a landmark and significant milestone for hundreds of years. It marks the point where ships rounding the continent of Africa stop sailing south and begin to sail east toward India and China. The cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean mix with the warmer currents of the Indian Ocean. Aside from all the history, the scenic beaches
, diverse flora and fauna and some of the largest coastal cliffs on the planet make the Cape of Good Hope a popular tourist destination.
The Cape of Good Hope is located at the southwestern tip of South Africa. It is a rocky headland that juts out into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The Cape of Good Hope makes up the southwest corner of Cape Peninsula. Cape Town is roughly 30 miles to the north. There's a fallacy regarding the Cape of Good Hope being the southernmost point of Africa and the official dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. That distinction goes to Cape Agulhas, where both oceans meet just 90 miles to the southeast of the Cape of Good Hope.
The land surrounding the Cape of Good Hope was home to the indigenous Khoisan tribes long before European explorers sailed to these shores. The natives referred to Table Mountain near the Cape as "Hoerikwaggo," or the "Mountain in the Sea." Old World maps found in Asia suggest that Arabian, Indian and Chinese explorers were the first foreigners to pass by the Cape of Good Hope.
Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Dias is credited with the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope. He came to the area on a voyage, sailing along the western shores of Africa in 1488 with the intention of discovering the southern limits of the continent. Dias named it the Cape of Storms. It was soon renamed the Cape of Good Hope by John II, another Portuguese explorer. The name made reference to the good omen that was brought by reaching the cape in the hope of opening a sea route for trade between Europe, India and the Far East.
The Dutch dominated the indigenous Khoikhoi people and settled in the area around the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. Supply settlements for the Dutch East India Trade Company eventually grew into what is now Cape Town. Legend has it that the famous Flying Dutchman ship disappeared in a storm around the Cape of Good Hope. The wreckage was never found, and it is said that the ship and its crew of ghosts are doomed to sail those waters for eternity without ever making it around the cape.
British Colonization and Independence
The British eventually occupied the area around the Cape of Good Hope after a number of invasions that led to the territory being ceded in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. The territory was known as the Cape Colony until 1910. This was the historic date of its incorporation into the independent Union of South Africa.
David Thyberg began his writing career in 2007. He is a professional writer, editor and translator. Thyberg has been published in various newspapers, websites and magazines. He enjoys writing about social issues, travel, music and sports. Thyberg holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh Honors College with a certificate in Spanish and Latin American studies.