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The Mauritius Historic Collections
It has been frequently hypothesized that Mauritius was first discovered by the Arabs, who named the island Dina Harobi. The first historical evidence of the existence of an island now known as Mauritius is on a map produced by the Italian cartographer Alberto Cantino in 1502. Cantino shows three islands which are thought to represent the Mascarenes (Reunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues) and calls them Dina Margabin, Dina Harobi and Dina Morare. What is known is that the medieval Arab world called the Indian Ocean island region Waqwaq.
Portuguese sailors (1507–1513)
Mauritius was discovered and visited by the Portuguese between 1507 and 1513.
An official world map by Diogo Ribeiro described “from west to east, the first island, ‘’Mascarenhas’’, the second, ‘’Santa Apolonia’’ and the third, ‘’Domingo Froiz’’. The three islands (Réunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues) were discovered some years earlier by chance during an exploratory expedition of the coast of the Golf of Bengal led by Tristão da Cunha. The expedition ran into a cyclone and was forced to change course. Thus, the ship ‘’Cirne’’ of the captain Diogo Fernandes Pereira, came into view of Réunion island on 9 February 1507. They called the island Santa Apolonia (“Saint Apollonia”) in honor of that day’s saint. Mauritius was discovered during the same expedition and received the name of ‘’Cirne’’ and Rodrigues that of ‘’Diogo Fernandes’’. Five years later, the islands were visited by Dom Pedro de Mascarenhas who left the name Mascarene for the whole region. The Portuguese took no interest in these isolated islands. They were already established in Asia in Goa, on the coast of Malabar, on the island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and on the Malaysian coast.
Their main African base was in Mozambique, therefore the Portuguese navigators preferred to use the Mozambique Channel to go to India. The Comoros at the north proved to be a more practical port of call. Thus no permanent colony was established on the island by the Portuguese.
Dutch sailors (1598–1637)
Dutch map of a coast of Mauritius
In 1598, a Dutch expedition consisting of eight ships set sail from the port of Texel (Netherlands) under the orders of admirals Jacques Cornelius Van Neck and Wybrandt Van Warwyck towards the Indian subcontinent. The eight ships ran into foul weather after passing the Cape of Good Hope and were separated. Three found their way to the northeast of Madagascar while the remaining five regrouped and sailed in a southeasterly direction. On 17 September, the five ships under the orders of Admiral Van Warwyck came into view of the island. On 20 September, they entered a sheltered bay which they gave the name of ‘’Port de Warwick’’ (present name is “Grand Port”). They landed and decided to name the island “Prins Maurits van Nassaueiland”, after Prince Maurits (Latin version: Mauritius) of the House of Nassau, the stadtholder of Holland, but also after the main vessel of the fleet which was called “Mauritius”. From those days, only the name Mauritius has remained. On 2 October, the ships took to the sea again towards Bantam.
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