Early Portuguese name in 1503, of Table bay. Meaning 'waterng place of Saldanha', it was given in honour of Admiral Antonio da Saldanha who was wounded there by the Khoikhoi, whilst taking water. In 1601 the name was applied to the present Saldanha Bay by the Dutch navigator Joris van Spilbergen, who then also gave Table Bay its Dutch name.
Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to explore the region in 1486. The bay was a poor natural harbour and badly exposed to gale force winds. Sailing ships that sought refuge in the bay during the 17th and 18th centuries were driven ashore by storms. The Dutch colonists nevertheless persisted with their efforts in Table bay as good natural harbours along this this coastline are almost non-existent. The best at the time was Saldanha Bay but they lacked fresh water. The best alternatives were Simons Bay and Hout Bay but they were however inaccessible at the time. Eventually a harbour was built in Table Bay by a process of land reclamation and was defended by breakwaters to protect shipping. The older part of this structure was called the Victoria Dock. The newer part is called the Duncan Dock. Robben Island is in this Bay, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned there for decades.
New Dictionary of South African Place Names by Peter E. Raper.