Who Was Bartolomeu Dias?

Bartolomeu Dias was the first European explorer to sail around the Cape of Good Hope. He set out in 1487, charged by King John II of Portugal with finding a route around Africa to India. His expedition made it around the cape and traveled east to Kwaaihoek before stopping. Dias wanted to continue to India, but conditions led his crew to threaten mutiny unless they returned home.

Many European monarchs of the 15th century dreamed of finding a viable sea route to India. At that time, valuable spices were exported via a land route through the Middle East, passing through many different middlemen and inflating costs. A direct sea route would have allowed merchants to bypass this system, vastly reducing prices and increasing economic opportunity.

After Dias' first expedition failed, Portugal halted its attempts to open a trade route with India for more than a decade. Dias served on Vasco da Gama's expedition that finally reached India in 1498, although he did not personally complete the journey. He later mounted another expedition of his own in 1500, but the flotilla was caught in a vicious storm off the Cape of Good Hope. Four ships, including the flagship, went down in the storm. Dias presumably perished and was never seen again.