Diogo Cão

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Diogo Cão († around 1486 ?), Also Diego Cao or Diogo Cam , was a Portuguese navigator and explorer.

Diogo Cão was in the service of the Portuguese King John II , who vigorously pushed the search for a sea route to India around Africa.

There is little reliable information about Diogo Cão. It is certain that his family lived in the city of Vila Real and that he was accepted as a squire at the royal court. He was first mentioned as a navigator in the travelogue of the French Eustache de la Fosse as the captain of a Portuguese ship in the Gulf of Guinea around 1480 ( "Voyage d'Eustache Delafosse sur la côte de guinée, au Portugal & en Espagne 1479–1481" ). Diogo Cão is credited with two or three trips along the West and South African coasts. At least two are considered certain, to which this article also refers. It can be assumed that Diogo Cão made more trips, as the Portuguese king named a captain for his discoveries, who acquired his seamanship and geographical knowledge on more than two trips.

First voyage 1482

On his first traditional voyage, Diogo Cão took water and provisions in the newly built Portuguese Fort Elmina (in present-day Ghana ) in the summer of 1482 , sailed south over Cape Santa Katharina and was the first European to reach the Congo River . He took possession of the mouth of the river for Portugal and on this occasion erected a stone column on the southern sandbank of the mouth, which he dedicated to Saint George . In August 1482 he drove up the Congo, visited the ruler of the Congo Empire and sent some black Christians from his team to look for other local African rulers. Then he sailed further south to Cape Santa Maria (13 ° 26 'south latitude), where he had a second stone pillar dedicated to Saint Augustine erected. He then returned to the Congo Estuary, took four Africans on board and returned to Portugal, which he reached in April 1484. Here he was received by Johann II and given privileges and honors.

Diogo Cão assumed that the Congo was navigable and opened the way to India. The same opinion was held by the Portuguese king, who had Pope Innocent VIII handed over a prayer of thanks in December 1485 in which he boasted that his ships were at the gates of India.

Second trip

But on his second voyage, which began at the end of 1485, Diogo Cão discovered that the Congo River did not open the way to India and that the African coast extends much further south beyond Cape Santa Maria than he had previously suspected. At the mouth of the Congo, his crew members, sent out in 1482, were waiting for him. He also released three of the four Africans he had taken with him on his first trip to Portugal back home. The fourth was baptized in Portugal and did not return until 1490 with the Gonçalo de Sousa expedition .

On this trip, too, he had two stone steles, so-called padrões, erected, one at 15 ° 41 'south latitude on Cape Monte Negro and the second at 21 ° 46' south latitude at today's Cape Cross in Namibia , which he built in January 1486 reached. This point, north of Walvis Bay , is considered to be its furthest southward advance. Diogo Cão probably drove back to the Congo in 1486 as far as the Ielala waterfalls , as the names of Diogo Cão, Pedro da Costa and Pedro Annes were found there.

Stone of Ielala

Science does not agree on his death. Some researchers believe that he died on Cape Cross. You interpret a corresponding entry on the map of the geographer Henricus Martellus Germanus from 1489/90 in this sense. Other scholars argue that he returned to Portugal in 1487. With the difficult chronological order of the events of his travels, a potential third voyage of discovery is justified.

The global significance of his voyages of discovery is illustrated not only by the entries in the map of Metellus, but also in a map by the Italian Cristoforo Soligo (around 1486) and on the globe by Martin Behaim from 1492.

See also: History of Portugal , Timeline of Portugal


Web links

Commons : Diogo Cão  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Os quatro padrões do Diogo Cão ( Memento of November 22, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) (Portuguese)