The famous Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz (also spelled Bartolomeu Dias) was the first European to sail around the southern tip of Africa, which the Portuguese would name the Cape of Good Hope. On this page is a list of interesting facts about this great explorer including when he made his famous journey, why his voyage is considered so important, and how he accomplish this great journey. This information is written for both kids and adults.
Bartholomew Diaz Quick Facts
Bartholomew Diaz was a Portuguese explorer.
Very little is known about Bartholomew Diaz prior to his historic voyage around the southern tip of Africa in 1487 except for the facts that he was a superintendent of the royal warehouses in Portugal and served on a warship named the Sao Cristovao.
In 1488, he became the first European to sail around the southern tip of Africa; called the Cape of Good Hope.
The main purpose of Diaz's expedition was to find a sea trade route from Europe to India.
Bartholomew Diaz's expedition lasted approximately 15 months and sailed approximately 16,000 miles; he and his crew returned to Lisbon as heroes.
Diaz proved that the Indian Ocean could be reached by sailing around the southern tip of Africa. This opened a trade route with Asia via water; which was much less expensive than the land trade routes.
Facts about Diaz's Voyage Around the Southern Tip of Africa
In October of 1487 King John II of Portugal appointed Diaz to lead an expedition of the African coast and to discover a sea trade route to India.
The king also instructed Diaz to search for a man named Prester John (Presbyter Johannes) who according to legend was a Christian king ruling over a wealthy kingdom in Africa. There is no historical evidence of such an individual ever existing.
Diaz and his crew departed Lisbon, Portugal in August of 1487 with three ships.
Upon departing Portugal Diaz's expedition sailed along the coast of Africa following the route of the famous Portuguese explorer Diogo Cao who had sailed along the African coast twice earlier in the 1480s.
At several locations along the African coast the Portuguese released several Africans who had been brought to Portugal from previous voyages. The men were supplied with gold and silver which were to be given as gifts to African tribes as an expression of goodwill from the Portuguese King.
The Portuguese left one of their ships docked along the African coast to serve as a supply ship; this is generally believed to be near what is modern day Angola.
Near the southern tip of Africa Diaz's 3 ships sailed into a dangerous storm that pushed them away from the African coast. They sailed around the tip of Africa in January of 1488 without seeing land.
After reaching Algoa Bay in the modern day Eastern Cape, South Africa, with supplies running low, the expedition turned back for Portugal before reaching India.
On the return trip, they spotted the tip of Africa; which they did not see when passing it the first time.
Upon reaching the supply ship they had left behind they discovered most of the men had been killed during numerous attacks from the natives.
Bartholomew Diaz named the southern tip of Africa the "Cape of Storms" due to the storm he encountered there. King John II of Portugal renamed it the "Cape of Good Hope" because he believed sailing around it would provide a sea route to India and prosperity for him and his country.
After 15 months at sea Diaz and his crew returned to a hero's welcome in Portugal.
Conclusion - Bartholomew Diaz
Despite Diaz's important voyage King John II of Portugal was displeased that the voyage had not made it all the way to India.
In 1500 Diaz was lost at sea attempting another journey around the Cape of Good Hope.
Despite not reaching India and falling out of favor with the King of Portugal, Bartholomew Diaz has earned his place as one of history's great explorers. His journey proved that India could be reached by sea from Europe and opened the door to a much cheaper trade route for the Europeans.