The Maritime Museum

The Vasco da Gama Exhibit At Maritime Museum, Mossel Bay

The building was originally erected in 1901 to serve as a grain and sawmill. It was adapted to serve as a unique The Maritime Museum (1901) and houses the impressive life-size replica of Bartolomeu Dias's caravel, the ship in which he sailed into Mossel Bay in the year 1488. It also displays ship models of a bygone era, route maps to the East and exploration of the Dark Continent in general. Visitors are allowed to purchase boarding passes for access onto the ship.

Previously the Old Roller Mill and Saw Mill Building, built by E.J. Meyer in 1901. In 1987 the building was altered to house the Caravel. This replica was constructed in Vila do Conde, Portugal and built to the design of the vessels used by the Portuguese during the 15th Century, however, due to the long trip to the shores of Africa, the replica was fitted with a modern kitchen and accommodation. Made from pine and oak, the Caravel measures 23,5 meters long with a beam of 6,6 meters and a displacement of 130 tons. It has two masts and two sails with a total area of 220 square meters. On the 8th November 1987 Captain Emilio da Sousa, a Portuguese Master Mariner and his selected 17 crew set sail for Mossel Bay and arrived on 3rd February 1988, 500 years after Bartolomeu Dias. The trip lasted 3 months, compared to the 6 month trip Dias had taken. The trip went well except off the Namibian coast where the auxiliary engine was used.

Voyages of Discovery and Trade around Southern Africa is the theme to the Maritime Museum. In the museum you will find many instruments and charts used by earlier navigators. A large blue ceramic bowl was donated to the Museum by descendants of Esaias Meyer, who rode 7 days on horse back to Cape Town in 1733/34 to seek help for the ship "Huijs te Marquette" whose mast had broken. In return for his goodwill the captain of the vessel gave him this ceramic bowl. Meyer was also rewarded with the "leeningsplaats" (a loan farm) Harten Bosch.

The Vasco da Gama Exhibit

This exhibit was officially opened in 1997 – exactly 500 years after Vasco da Gama, one of the most noted Portuguese explorers, arrived in Mossel Bay. It depicts the contact with the indigenous Khoi-Khoi tribe and the first recorded barter transaction on South African soil.

The Overland Trade Route

Trade between Europe and the Far East in the 15 th and 16 th century. Many centuries before the Portuguese opened up the sea route to India, a land/sea route from India to the Mediterranean had evolved.

The Portuguese

The motives which inspired the attempts to discover a sea route to India were first and foremost the search for spice, secondly the desire for Guinea gold, thirdly their Christian crusading zeal and lastly the quest for the legendary Christian King Prester John.


On the upper level is an interesting display on Shipwrecks. One of them was the Rosebud. It was wrecked on Diaz Beach at Mossel Bay on 30 August 1888 during a south-east gale while on a voyage from Calcutta to London via Mossel Bay and Cape Town with a general cargo.
The Maritime Museum

Back To The Mossel Bay Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex