The Dias Cross

Landmarks / Memorials in or near Cannon Rocks, Sunshine Coast in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Eastern Cape Tourist AttractionsThe Dias Cross

Where? The Dias Cross, Boknes, Alexandria, Sunshine Coast

Overnight? Accommodation in Cannon Rocks, in Eastern Cape

There is a Dias Cross on the headland known as Kwaaihoek, close to the Boknes lagoon on the Sunshine Coast. It is one of three crosses erected by the Portuguese explorer on his sea journey to Africa.

In 1487 Bartholomew Dias was his return journey to the African coast. It was his destiny to blow off course and sail around the southernmost tip of Africa to land in Mossel Bay, opening a sea route between Europe and Asia.

He then ventured further east turning back, historians believe, when he reached the mouth of the Great Fish River in the Eastern Cape. On the way back he was to place three stone crosses on the southern African coastline – the first of these at Kwaaihoek, on the 12 March 1488 (the other two are at Cape Point and Namibia).

Today the cross is a provincial heritage site. But the cross you will see is not the original. That was held in place by only a few boulders and was ultimately buried under sand and broken by storms, so that it disappeared leaving no obvious trace of its existence.

If it weren't for the work of a Professor Axelson, who spent two years exploring Lisbon archives and libraries in search of anything relating to the fifteenth century Portuguese explorers, the remains of this particular limestone cross would have remained in obscurity.

After systematic searching revealed one a bit of the cross a metre beneath the surface of the sand, and another large chunk was found in a pool over the edge of the cliff where it must have fallen, the work that eventually unearthed the entire cross, albeit in bits, would never have happened. Its reconstruction is today at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

The cross at Kwaaihoek, known by Dias as a padrão (large stone cross inscribed with Portugal's coast of arms) was erected as a sign that he had been there; as proof of his claims of discovery.

To reach it is a 3 km walk across the beach from Boknes lagoon, or a 6 km beach walk from Bushman's River mouth (provided the tide is out).

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