However this may be, it is obvious that Neco was in big troubles, and he seems to have considered the possibility to attack southern Babylonia by sea. He ordered a canal to be made between the Nile and the Red Sea; however, he learnt from an oracle that he was giving free access to his enemies too, and therefore, the canal remained uncompleted until the Persians had taken over Egypt in the last quarter of the sixth century.
The circumnavigation of Africa must have been related to his defense projects. Neco asked for Phoenician assistance because the Phoenicians (who lived in modern Lebanon) were excellent sailors and had several colonies in the West, such as Carthage and the islet of Mogador opposite modern Essaouira, which has been identified with ancient Arambys. The Phoenicians must have been happy to help the Egyptians, because they shared the Babylonian enemy.
They must have started their voyage in July, and they must have reached the Horn of Africa after an uneventful trip, relying on the northern wind. The Red Sea (which Herodotus calls "Arabian Gulf") was well known to their Egyptian pilots, because the Egyptians traded incense with the Arabians of modern Yemen.
The Egyptian sources inform us also about a mythological country named Punt or Pwanit. Usually, this is identified with the north coast of modern Somalia, but this is unlikely, since the Egyptians brought back antimony. This was produced, however, in modern Mozambique; it may be noticed that Pwani is the Swahili word indicating "seaside" and a similar word may have existed 2600 years ago. In later times, the route to "Rhapta" (somewhere in the neighborhood of Dar-es-Salaam) was well-known to Egyptian and Roman sailors. Whatever the precise location of Punt, the first part of the expedition of the Phoenicians covered known territories.
After they had passed Africa's most eastern shores, the northeast monsoon -which started in October- sped up their journey, and in March they must have reached the equator. The Agulhas Current must have brought them through the Mozambique Channel and along the coast of modern South Africa. Sailing on their westerly course, they must have observed that they had the sun on their right. (Something that Herodotus, who was unaware of the earth's spherical shape, was unable to believe.) Something else must have fascinated these men, too: they must have seen whales.
When they reached Cape Agulhas, they left the current that had helped to the south. At the same time, they encountered the contrary South East trade winds. And they must have been shocked to discover that here, on the southern hemisphere, the winter was already approaching. However, they must happily have noticed that they had started to go north. The plane behind Saint Helena Bay, 150 kilometers north of modern Cape town, offered a fine opportunity to land. They must have sowed their wheat in June, started to repair their ships, and harvested in November.
The Benguela Current and the now favorable South East trade winds brought the Phoenician sailors back to the hot equatorial regions, and the will have experienced its effects in a most unpleasant way, when they sailed along the Namibian coast, which is a desert. It took several weeks to reach a more fertile coast. In March, a new and equally unpleasant surprise awaited them: they had been traveling on a northerly course, but now, the coast curved to the west again. They may have benefited from the westward Guinea Current, but not for long, because it changes its direction during the spring. For weeks, they were struggling against the wind and the current, only to reach -in July- the African west coast, where they encountered the contrary Canary Current and the North Eastern trade winds. But they were rowing in a northerly direction.
Somehow they managed to beat against the wind and the current, and in november they must have landed somewhere on the coast of modern Mauritania, maybe at Bay of Arguin, where their Carthaginian compatriots were to build the trading post of Kerne in the not too distant future. The voyagers, sowed their wheat, repaired their ships, and waited for the next harvest. Maybe they made contact with the Berber population; in that case, they may have learned that they could obtain gold from the Bambouk region if they returned to the mouth of the Senegal - something that the Carthaginian sailor Hanno probably did.
In May, they brought their ships to the sea, and
started to beat their way up to along the Moroccan coast, where they discovered
that they had returned to the world they knew: the town on Mogador island
was occupied by Phoenicians. Having told the
incredible story of their trip to the southern hemisphere and with new
equipment, they continued their voyage; soon they reached Phoenician towns
like Lixus, modern Cadiz and Malaga, and Carthage. They must have reached
Egypt at the end of the summer. Their expedition had lasted almost three