Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Fairest Cape in all the world...

It was Sir Francis Drake who coined the now-famous line in 1580 to describe the mountainous peninsula that stretches from modern-day Cape Town to the southwestern-most tip of Africa at Cape Point...

"This cape, Drake wrote in July of 1580, is a most stately thing,
and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.

Bear in mind that Drake, at that point, was nearing the final stage of an epic round-the-world voyage and might very well have been sated by the range of exotic and spectacular places he'd already seen. He'd set out from Plymouth in 1577 and went south to touch at west Africa and then picked up winds to speed him across the Atlantic. He voyaged down the east coast of south America, followed in Magellan's wake by taking the famous straits into the Pacific. From there, he sailed up the west coast reaching, some say, as far as California before turning west to cross the Pacific and reach the islands of Indonesia. He continued west across the Indian Ocean, and saw the Cape of Good Hope almost 3 years after leaving Plymouth. Then he made his way up the west coast of Africa and returned to a hero's welcome.
And all that in a wooden sailing ship, with only the stars and the sun to steer by!
But the journey was not simply a peaceful voyage of discovery. There were mutinies and skirmishes, and disease and death. Drake was also after booty, and he plundered many ships for their cargoes of gold, silver and spices. His ship, Golden Hind, must have staggered into port, so substantial was its cargo of treasure. Drake would go on to become even more famous for his role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

But I'm pleased he took time out from adventuring and piracy to notice the splendours of the Cape...

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