False Bay / Cape Town, South Africa
Rare chart of False Bay, which appeared in the so-called VOC Secret Atlas.
The map shows "Post-huys", the signal blockhouse built as an observation post controlling False Bay and which was completed in 1673, a year before the Castle in Cape Town was occupied.
The chart was made for and used by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) for navigation and trading.
The chart appeared in volume VI (1753) of Johannes II van Keulen's Zee-Fakkel, he so called "secret atlas" of the VOC. For two centuries, from 1602 to 1799, the Dutch East India Company (VOC: Vereenigde Geoctroieerde Oostindische Compagnie) ruled the waters of Asia and Africa. Accurate charting of these waters was essential for successful and safe navigation.
The VOC had their own mapmaking office. During the first 150 years, only secret manuscript charts were used, to minimize the risk of spreading the knowledge to competitors.
From 1753 onwards, a printed atlas was used, with printed charts to navigate the waters from South Africa to Japan. The atlas was produced by Johannes (II) van Keulen, official hydrographer to the VOC, and was officially known as Part VI of the Zee-Fakkel (Sea-Torch). The atlas is known as the secret atlas because it was not sold and only used by VOC ships.
Bartolomeu Dias in 1488 first referred to the bay as "the gulf between the mountains" (Schirmer). The name "False Bay" was applied early on (at least three hundred years ago) by sailors who confused the bay with Table Bay to the north. According to Schirmer, the confusion arose because sailors returning from the east (The Dutch East Indies) initially confused Cape Point and Cape Hangklip, which are somewhat similar in form. Hangklip was known to the early Portuguese seafarers as Cabo Falso, or False Cape, and the name of the bay derived from the cape.