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Bartolomeu Dias

Statue of Bartolomeu Dias at the High Commission of South Africa in London.

Bartolomeu Dias (Portuguese pronunciation: [baɾtuluˈmew ˈdi.ɐʃ]; Anglicized:


[1]
Bartholomew Diaz; c. 1451 – 24 May 1500 ), a nobleman of the Portuguese royal
household, was a Portuguese explorer who sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in
1488, the first European known to have done so.

Purposes of the Dias expedition

Dias was a Knight of the royal court, superintendent of the royal warehouses, and sailing-
master of the man-of-war, São Cristóvão (Saint Christopher). King John II of Portugal
appointed him, on 10 October 1486, to head an expedition to sail around the southern end of
Africa in the hope of finding a trade route to India. Another purpose of the expedition was to
try to revisit the countries reported by João Afonso de Aveiro (probably Ethiopia and Aden)
with which the Portuguese desired friendly relations. Dias was also charged with searching
for the lands ruled by Prester John, who was a fabled Christian priest and African prince.

The expedition

Dias left Lisbon in August, 1487 leading an expedition of three ships. His flagship, the
caravel São Cristóvão, was piloted by Pêro de Alenquer. The second caravel, the São
Pantaleão, was commanded by João Infante and piloted by Alvaro Martins. Dias' brother
Pêro Dias was the captain of the square-rigged support ship with João de Santiago as pilot.

The expedition sailed south along the West coast of Africa. Extra provisions were picked up
on the way at the Portuguese fortress of Sao Jorge de Mina on the Gold Coast. After having
sailed past Angola Dias reached reached the Golfo da Conceicão (Walvis Bay) by December.
Having rounded the Cape of Good Hope at a considerable distance, Dias continued east and
entered what he named Aguada de São Brás (Bay of Saint Blaise)- later renamed Mossel Bay
- on February 3, 1488. Dias's expedition reached its furthest point on March 12, 1488 when
they anchored at Kwaaihoek, near the mouth of the Bushman's River, where a padrão -the
Padrão de São Gregorio - was erected before turning back.[2] Dias wanted to continue
sailing to India, but he was forced to turn back when his crew refused to go further. [3] It was
only on the return voyage that he actually discovered the Cape of Good Hope, in May 1488.
Dias returned to Lisbon in December of that year, after an absence of sixteen months.

The discovery of the passage around Africa was significant because, for the first time,
Europeans could trade directly with India and the other parts of Asia, bypassing the
overland route through the Middle East, with its expensive middlemen. The official report of
the expedition has been lost.

Dias originally named the Cape of Good Hope the "Cape of Storms" (Cabo das Tormentas).
It was later renamed by King John II of Portugal to the Cape of Good Hope (Cabo da Boa
Esperança) because it represented the opening of a route to the east.
Follow-up voyages

After these early attempts, the Portuguese took a decade-long break from Indian Ocean
exploration. During that hiatus, it is likely that they received valuable information from a
secret agent, Pêro da Covilhã, who had been sent overland to India and returned with
reports useful to their navigators.[4]

Using his experience with explorative travel, Dias helped in the construction of the São
Gabriel and its sister ship, the São Rafael that were used by Vasco da Gama to
circumnavigate the Cape and continue the route to India. Dias participated only in the first
leg of da Gama's voyage, until the Cape Verde Islands. He was then one of the captains of
the second Indian expedition, headed by Pedro Alvares Cabral. This flotilla reached first the
coast of Brazil, taking possession of it in 1500, and then continued eastwards to India. Dias
perished near the Cape of Good Hope that he presciently had named Cape of Storms. Four
ships encountered a huge storm off the cape and were lost, including Dias', on May 29, 1500.
A shipwreck found in 2008 by the Namdeb Diamond Corporation off Namibia was at first
thought to be possibly Dias' ship,[5] however, recovered coins come from a later time.[6]

Personal life

Dias was married and had two children:

 Simão Dias de Novais, who died unmarried and without issue


 António Dias de Novais, a Knight of the Order of Christ, married to (apparently his
relative, since the surname de Novais was transmitted through her brother's
offspring) Joana Fernandes, daughter of Fernão Pires and wife Guiomar Montês
(and sister of Brites Fernandes and Fernão Pires, married to Inês Nogueira,
daughter of Jorge Nogueira and wife, and had issue), and had issue.

Dias' grandson Paulo Dias de Novais was a Portuguese colonizer of Africa in the 16th
century. Dias' granddaughter, Guiomar de Novais married twice, as his second wife to Dom
Rodrigo de Castro, son of Dom Nuno de Castro and wife Joana da Silveira, by whom she
had Dona Paula de Novais and Dona Violante de Castro, both died unmarried and without
issue, and to Pedro Correia da Silva, natural son of Cristóvão Correia da Silva, without
issue.