1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Delagoa Bay

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DELAGOA BAY (Port. for the bay “of the lagoon”), an inlet of the Indian Ocean on the east coast of South Africa, between 25° 40′ and 26° 20′ S., with a length from north to south of over 70 m. and a breadth of about 20 m. The bay is the northern termination of the series of lagoons which line the coast from Saint Lucia Bay. The opening is toward the N.E. The southern part of the bay is formed by a peninsula, called the Inyak peninsula, which on its inner or western side affords safe anchorage. At its N.W. point is Port Melville. North of the peninsula is Inyak Island, and beyond it a smaller island known as Elephant’s Island.

In spite of a bar at the entrance and a number of shallows within, Delagoa Bay forms a valuable harbour, accessible to large vessels at all seasons of the year. The surrounding country is low and very unhealthy, but the island of Inyak has a height of 240 ft., and is used as a sanatorium. A river 12 to 18 ft. deep, known as the Manhissa or Komati, enters the bay at its northern end; several smaller streams, the Matolla, the Umbelozi, and the Tembi, from the Lebombo Mountains, meet towards the middle of the bay in the estuary called by the Portuguese the Espirito Santo, but generally known as the English river; and the Maputa, which has its headwaters in the Drakensberg, enters in the south, as also does the Umfusi river. These rivers are the haunts of the hippopotamus and the crocodile.

The bay was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Antonio de Campo, one of Vasco da Gama’s companions, in 1502, and the Portuguese post of Lourenço Marques was established not long after on the north side of the English river. In 1720 the Dutch East India Company built a fort and “factory” on the spot where Lourenço Marques now stands; but in 1730 the settlement was abandoned. Thereafter the Portuguese had—intermittently—trading stations in the Espirito Santo. These stations were protected by small forts, usually incapable, however, of withstanding attacks by the natives. In 1823 Captain (afterwards Vice-Admiral) W. F. W. Owen, of the British navy, finding that the Portuguese exercised no jurisdiction south of the settlement of Lourenço Marques, concluded treaties of cession with native chiefs, hoisted the British flag, and appropriated the country from the English river southwards; but when he visited the bay again in 1824 he found that the Portuguese, disregarding the British treaties, had concluded others with the natives, and had endeavoured (unsuccessfully) to take military possession of the country. Captain Owen rehoisted the British flag, but the sovereignty of either power was left undecided till the claims of the Transvaal Republic rendered a solution of the question urgent. In the meantime Great Britain had taken no steps to exercise authority on the spot, while the ravages of Zulu hordes confined Portuguese authority to the limits of their fort. In 1835 Boers, under a leader named Orich, had attempted to form a settlement on the bay, which is the natural outlet for the Transvaal; and in 1868 the Transvaal president, Marthinus Pretorius, claimed the country on each side of the Maputa down to the sea. In the following year, however, the Transvaal acknowledged Portugal’s sovereignty over the bay. In 1861 Captain Bickford, R.N., had declared Inyak and Elephant islands British territory; an act protested against by the Lisbon authorities. In 1872 the dispute between Great Britain and Portugal was submitted to the arbitration of M. Thiers, the French president; and on the 19th of April 1875 his successor, Marshal MacMahon, declared in favour of the Portuguese. It had been previously agreed by Great Britain and Portugal that the right of pre-emption in case of sale or cession should be given to the unsuccessful claimant to the bay. Portuguese authority over the interior was not established until some time after the MacMahon award; nominally the country south of the Manhissa river was ceded to them by the Matshangana chief Umzila in 1861. In 1889 another dispute arose between Portugal and Great Britain in consequence of the seizure by the Portuguese of the railway running from the bay to the Transvaal. This dispute was referred to arbitration, and in 1900 Portugal was condemned to pay nearly £1,000,000 in compensation to the shareholders in the railway company. (See Lourenço Marques and Gazaland.)

For an account of the Delagoa Bay arbitration proceedings see Sir E. Hertslet, The Map of Africa by Treaty, iii. 991-998 (London, 1909). Consult also the British blue-book, Delagoa Bay, Correspondence respecting the Claims of Her Majesty’s Government (London, 1875); L. van Deventer, La Hollande et la Baie Delagoa (The Hague, 1883); G. McC. Theal, The Portuguese in South Africa (London, 1896), and History of South Africa since September 1795, vol. v. (London, 1908). The Narrative of Voyages to explore the shores of Africa . . . performed . . . under direction of Captain W. F. W. Owen, R.N. (London, 1833) contains much interesting information concerning the district in the early part of the 19th century.