Bartholomeu Dias de Novais was a Portuguese explorer who sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488 and was the first European known to do so. The museum complex is built on the very site where the European explorers first came ashore and made contact with the indigenous people.
There are also five National Monuments on the museum grounds, four of which dating between 1830 and 1902.
Inside the maritime museum, we found a big hand painted mural of the Portuguese land and sea trade routes. Some of the many items transported along this route, included silks and spices like ginger, pepper, cinnamon, cloves and coriander.
They also have scale models of ships on display in the museum, one of which shows an example of how the decks are arranged inside a ship. Caspian found this very interesting and posed for a photo with one of the models.
They even have a scale model of the ship that Bartholomeu Dias used for his exploration missions around Africa. It is called a Caravel and is a small, fast and highly maneuverable sailing ship developed in the 15th century. Because of their size, they had limited capacity for cargo and crew, but their smaller size and shallower keel allowed the Caravel to sail upriver in shallow coastal waters.
If the scale model of the Caravel was not enough, the Dias museum also has a full sized replica of Bartholomeu Dias' Caravel on display! The ship is 23,5 meters long and was launched on 14 June 1987, she sailed from Lisabon with a crew of 16 and arrived in Mossel Bay on 3 Fabruary 1988 - the 500th anniversary of Dias' landing. She then sailed to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Port Edward and Durban as part of the Dias88 Festival, before arriving back at her permanent home in Mosselbay, where she was dry docked and the building closed up around her.
The kids were a little afraid to walk over the wooden bridge to board the ship, so we had to take all of our photos from the walkways around her! Caspian, however, was willing to pose for a photo on the railing and all of the other guests waited patiently for us to finish our mini photo session before boarding the ship again.
There are also some very interesting items on display all over the museum, one of which is this replica Backstaff. The Backstaff (Or Back Quadrant) is a navigational instrument that was used to determine latitude by measuring the altitude of the sun in the sky.
Nestled between some of the antique and vintage items on the top floor of the museum, we found this very old bicycle. We all had a very good laugh at the thought of having to actually go anywhere on it though!
One of the monuments in the museum complex, is the postal tree. (Only a branch is visible on the top of this photo because the tree is so big!) The tree is a Milkwood tree and is considered to be over 500 years old. In 1501 the navigator Da Nova found a message that warned him of rough sailing near Calcutta, in a sailor's boot under this tree. This tree is considered to be the first post office in South Africa and since Da Nova was so grateful for the message, he built a small stone hermitage to be used for religious purposes - the first religious building in South Africa!
This is the post box under the Old Post Office Tree, where you can send out postcards and letters. A special frank is used on all outgoing mail to commemorate that South Africa's first post office was this tree. The letterbox is shaped like a boot because the first letters were placed in a sailor's boot under the tree...
Unfortunately when we visited the museum, the postal strike was still going strong and we were advised not to send out postcards from the postal tree at that time. :(
P.S - I only realized today that yesterday's changes to my website were not as easy to find as I had thought they would be! I apologize for the confusion that I have created and have now updated the home page of my website to point to the "Updates" page that shows what changes were made and when. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, it totally slipped my mind!