Ocean Currents and Tides: The Icy Benguela 

 In order to sail around the tip of Africa, Portuguese sailors had to sail against from two powerful ocean flows. They first had to sail south against the northward moving Benguela and then north against the southward flowing Agulhas currents.

The icy Benguela current moves from the Southern Ocean (around Antartica) and flows northwards along the West Coast of Africa. Because the Benguela reaches as far north as Angola, ships found it extremely difficult to travel south of Angola by following the coast.

Bartholomew Dias became the first captain to successfully sail south of the northward flowing Benguela Current and around the southern tip of Africa.

Where the icy Benguela meets the warm, south- and west-flowing Agulhas, a rich sea life lies beneath the surface, but tremendous turbulence occurs above. South African folklore considers the Cape of Good Hope as the the place where the two oceans meet--the cold Benguela (Atlantic Ocean) and the warm Agulhas (Indian Ocean). But the currents actually intermingle for several hundred miles east and west of the Cape.

Bathymetry and relief map of Atlantic and
Western Indian Ocean adapted from NOAA

Back to Ocean Currents (Agulhas) | South Atlantic Weather | Home page

Elsewhere on the Net
A Primer on Ocean Currents | Where Dias sailed | South Africa's Benguela