Page 120 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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As is clear from the Lists, the majority of outward and homeward bound V O C ships called at the Cape of Good Hope. In 1652 the Company had established a victualling post by Table Bay. This settlement had subsequently developed into a quite sizeable colony, where on a much larger scale than elsewhere in VOC settlements, colonists endeavoured to build themselves a living. There is no need to discuss this development here, and in the following pages the Cape's primary function for the VOC, that of staging post on the route between Europe and Asia, will be dealt with.
Before 1652
As early as the Eerste Schipvaart Dutch navigators called at one of the bays on the southern tip of the African continent. On August 4th, 1595, four ships under De Houtman dropped anchor in a bay which was later, in 1601, to be called Mosselbaai by Paulus van Caerden. The Portuguese navigator Bartholomeu Dias had more than a century earlier, in 1487, arrived at the same bay. Dias had unknowingly rounded the African continent, for the Mossel Bay is situated east of the Cape of Good Hope and of the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas. In 1487 Dias did not explore further but on the way back he sighted the Cabo de Bona Espérance - the name then given to this cape since it was a sign of hope that the sea route to Asia round Africa had now been found.1
In 1601 Joris van Spilbergen gave the name Tafelbaai to the bay near the Cape of Good Hope. The Portuguese had called it Saldanha Bay, but this name was now transferred to a more northerly inlet.2 At Table Bay fresh water was to be found, the sailors could gather fruit and sometimes there was the chance of buying livestock from the indigenous popu- lation, the Khoikhoi.
When in 1616 the outward bound ships were made to use the faster and shorter route across the southern part of the Indian Ocean, the Cape acquired greater significance: it became a mandatory port of call. From then on the regular appearance of East Indiamen in Table Bay facilitated the exchange of news and the passing on of letters to later ships. For this purpose letters were hidden under marked stones or sometimes entrusted to natives. In this way the next ships to arrive learned how their predecessors had fared, and what were the opportunities for provisioning. In addition letters from ships going in the opposite direction could be taken along, informing those at home or in Batavia how the ships had fared on the first lap of their voyage.3
The chances of sufficient provisioning fluctuated considerably. Water and 'groencruyt' (greens) like clover and sorrel could usually be found, and during a longer stay there was fishing. But it was by no means always possible to buy cattle or sheep from the native population. This depended on the Khoikhoi being present near the coast, on the quantities of copper - favoured by the Khoikhoi as barter for their livestock - on board the ships, and on the willingness of the people to part with their animals. The crew of the WITTE BEER and ZWARTE BEER (0189 and 0190), who stayed at the Cape in 1615, had to smash their saucepan lids to pieces to produce sufficient barter. In 1618 and 1621 the
1 See map 7 for the position of the various bays on the southern tip of Africa. For the naming see Raven-Hart, Before Van Riebeeck, 2-28.
2 De reis van Joris van Spilbergen, 13-18. 3 See Raven-Hart, Before van Riebeeck.

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