The End of the World is Here

This is what it looks like at the end of the world.

This is what the end of the world looks like (...the wine-dark sea, behind the guy in the wine red shirt...)

This is what the end of the world looks like (…the wine-dark sea, behind the guy in the wine red shirt…)

If you sail past the horizon — right out there — you’ll fall off the edge of the Earth.

At least, that’s what the early navigators thought. But the bravest among them proved the theory wrong.

Cabo de Sao Vicente is Europe’s most southwestern point. And it was the last place these Portuguese explorers would see when they set out to discover unknown peoples and unexpected continents.

The Cape was already an important place as far back as Neolithic times. Standing stones have been found here. And the ancient Greeks dedicated a temple to Heracles on the site. The Romans believed it marked the edge of the world too — it was here that the sun sank hissing into the ocean at the end of each day.

Today it is marked by one of Europe’s most powerful lighthouses. Its beacon is visible as far as 60km away.

The lighthouse is one of Europe’s most powerful, visible 60km away...

The lighthouse is one of Europe’s most powerful, visible 60km away…

That's the universal sign for "edge of the world"...

That’s the universal sign for “edge of the world”…

Just across a craggy wave-bashed bay from the end-of-world lighthouse is the Fortaleza de Sagres.

The fort and its promontory offer outstanding views of the open sea, and of the towering cliffs and sea shaken coast. It’s a great place to walk, and watch storm clouds roll in, slashing the waves with curtains of rain.

Replica of a padrao — the markers that Portuguese explorers used to claim territory for their king.

Replica of a padrao — the markers that Portuguese explorers used to claim territory for their king.

The restored church of Nossa Senhora da Graça inside the fort dates from 1579.

The restored church of Nossa Senhora da Graça inside the fort dates from 1579.

Legend has it that Prince Henry the Navigator had a famous school of navigation here, but if so, nothing survives of such a site. He’s known to have used Lagos as the base from which his expeditions set sail, which is further east along the Algarve coast. Although he did apparently spend more time in the Sagres area in his later years, and he died there on November 13, 1460.

Is it an enormous mariner's wind compass? A sun dial? No one seems to be entirely sure...

Is it an enormous mariner’s wind compass? A sun dial? No one seems to be entirely sure…

If you go there, stand on those cliffs and look out to sea. Imagine the Romans looking out at that same view, from that very same place. And then imagine those brave explorers who risked all to sail across that sea, never imaging the New World that awaited them on the other side.

The fort is great place to watch storm clouds roll in off the open Atlantic...

The fort is great place to watch storm clouds roll in off the open Atlantic…

Is it madness or bravery that sparks such a leap into the unknown?

What would happen if you stood on your own inner promontory, and risked a great leap into the unknown in all areas of your own life…?

The windswept coast between fort and land's end attracts surfers and cliff fishermen...

The windswept coast between fort and land’s end attracts surfers and cliff fishermen…

 

Can you imagine the new worlds you would discover?

 

 

 

Photos ©Tomoko Goto 2014

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Hello Ryan, First, I want to go there! Second, what a great description! Yes, people don’t always seem to be aware that the Portuguese were major explores and lords of the oceans – who even thinks about Portugal these days, eh?
    In Baja currently – which is not so bad (!). If email holds up will write you
    when we get back from town today. Or manana. Whatever.

    • Ryan Murdock says

      Jeanne! Great to hear from you. I was just thinking of you last night, wondering if you were in Baja. Yeah, Portugal feels like a bit of a backwater these days, out there on the fringes of Europe. I loved it there, looking forward to going back. That history of exploration and navigation really speaks to me.

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