Cape Cross (Afrikaans: Kaap Kruis; German: Kreuzkap; Portuguese: Cabo da Cruz) is a small headland in the South Atlantic in Skeleton Coast, western Namibia, on the C34 highway some 60 kilometres north of Hentiesbaai and 120 km north of Swakopmund on the west coast of Namibia.
The Portuguese navigator and explorer Diogo Cão was in 1484 ordered by King João II, as part of the search for a sea route to India and the Spice Islands, to advance south into undiscovered regions along the west coast of Africa. While doing so, he was to choose some particularly salient points and claim them for Portugal by setting up on each a stone cross called padrão.
During his first voyage, thought to have taken place in 1482, he reached a place he called Monte Negro, now called Cabo de Santa Maria, roughly 150 km southwest of today's Benguela, Angola.
During his second voyage, in 1484–1486, Cão reached Cape Cross in January 1486, being the first European to visit this area. During this voyage he proceeded c. 1,400 km farther than during the first one. He is known to have erected two padrãos in the areas beyond his first voyage, one in Monte Negro, and the second at Cape Cross. The current name of the place is derived from this padrão. What can today be found at Cape Cross are two replicas of that first cross.
Cão's first expedition took place only six years, and the second expedition's end only two years before Bartholomeu Dias successfully rounded the Cape of Good Hope as the first European explorer in 1488.
The original Cape Cross padrão was removed in 1893 by Corvette captain , commander of the of the German Navy, and taken to Berlin. The cross is now held in the Deutsches Historisches Museum. A simple wooden cross was put in its place. The wooden cross was replaced two years later by a stone replica.
At the end of the 20th century, thanks to private donations, another cross, more similar to the original one, was erected at Cape Cross, and thus there are now two crosses there.
The inscription on the padrão reads, in English translation:
In the year 6685 after the creation of the world and 1485 after the birth of Christ, the brilliant, far-sighted King John II of Portugal ordered Diogo Cão, knight of his court, to discover this land and to erect this padrão here".
Today Cape Cross is a protected area owned by the government of Namibia under the name Cape Cross Seal Reserve. The reserve is the home of one of the largest colonies of Cape fur seals in the world.
Cape Cross is one of two main sites in Namibia (the other is in Lüderitz) where seals are culled, partly for selling their hides and partly for protecting the fish stock. The economic impact of seals on the fish resources is controversial: While a government-initiated study found that seal colonies consume more fish than the entire fishing industry can catch, animal protection society Seal Alert South Africa estimated less than 0.3% losses to commercial fisheries.
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