Strange world: Clockwise round Africa

WHO was the first to sail round Africa? Traditional (European) history says it was the Portuguese trader Bartholomeu Dias in the 16th century. But the British explorer Philip Beale thinks it was actually the Phoenicians some 2,500 years ago. He intends to prove it by making the trip in the same kind of boat used by these ancient seafarers.

Mr Beale believes that Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II in 600BC commissioned the Phoenicians, the main sailors of the time, to see if it was possible to sail around Africa.

"When I did my research I found a mention by the Greek historian Herodotus of a circumnavigation by Phoenicians written in 440BC, 200 years after the actual event," says the former Royal Navy sailor.

Mr Beale will make the duplicate voyage in a specially built boat made of pine and held together with wooden dowels. The 66ft Phoenicia will set out down the Suez Canal in August. He intends to complete the 15,000-mile clockwise journey in under ten months.

On his re-creation of the voyage, Mr Beale will round the Horn of Africa and then drop down the east coast, passing the Cape of Good Hope in January, before heading up the west coast, then round the north to Alexandria.

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