Bartolomeu Dias (Anglicized: Bartholomew Diaz) (c. 1450 – May 29, 1500), a Nobleman of the Royal Household, was a Portuguese explorer who sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488, the first European known to have done so.
Dias sailed, at first, towards the mouth of the Congo River, discovered the year before by Diogo Cão and Martin Behaim, then, following the African coast, he entered Walvis Bay. From 29° south latitude (Port Nolloth), he lost sight of the coast and was sailing south in a violent storm, which had lasted thirteen days. He did not know that he had sailed well beyond the tip of the continent. When calm weather returned he sailed in an easterly direction and, when no land appeared, turned northward, landing at the "Baía dos Vaqueiros" (Mossel Bay) on 12 March 1488. Dias had rounded both the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa without ever having been to them before.
Continuing east, he sailed as far as the Great Fish River. Once it had become clear that India could be reached by sailing north up the coast, he turned back. It was only on the return voyage that he discovered the Cape of Good Hope in May 1488. Dias returned to Lisbon in December 1488 after an absence of sixteen months and seventeen days. He had explored a total of about 2,030 km of unknown African coast.
He originally named the Cape of Good Hope the "Cape of Storms" (Cabo das Tormentas). It was later renamed by King John II of Portugal as the Cape of Good Hope (Cabo da Boa Esperança) because of the opening of a route to the east. 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 of the Middle East, with its expensive middle men. The official report of the expedition to the Cape of Good Hope has been lost.
It appears that the Portuguese took a decade-long break from Indian Ocean exploration after Dias' return. In that hiatus, it is likely that they got valuable information from a secret agent, Pêro da Covilhã, who had been sent overland to India and provided valuable information useful to their ocean navigators.
In 1497 Dias was posted in São Jorge da Mina Castle and accompanied Vasco da Gama's expedition to India. He followed Gama with one ship to Cape Verde. He also accompanied Pedro Álvares Cabral on the voyage that resulted in the discovery of Brazil in 1500. He died off the shore at the Cape of Good Hope when his vessel was wrecked in a storm.
In early 2008 Namdeb discovered an early 16th century wreck off the coast of Namibia. It was originally speculated that this might be the wreck of Dias' ship, but the gold coins were identified as "Português" (also known as "Portugaloser") which were minted after 1525, thus excluding the possibility of it being Dias' ship.
Married, he had two children: * Simão Dias de Novais, who died unmarried and without 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.
Vasco da Gama landed at Mossel Bay on 12 March 1488.