Bartolomeu Dias’ life began in late 1450 or early 1451, historians don’t know the exact date. He was born in Algarve, which is in the southern part of Portugal. That is all that historians know about his early life almost nothing else could be found to explain his childhood. No one knows who his parents were or what exact day he was born on, all that they know is that he was born in between the years 1450 and 1451. In his later personal life he was married and had two sons. Historians are unable to find who his wife was, but there are records of the two sons and their families. The first son was Simão Dias de Novais, who died unmarried and without issue. The second was António Dias de Novais, a Knight of the Order of Christ, married to Joana Fernandes, who was the daughter daughter of Fernão Pires. Dias’ grandson Paulo Dias de Novais was a Portuguese colonizer of Africa in the 16th century. Dias’ granddaughter, Guiomar de Novais married twice, first to Dom Rodrigo de Castro, the second husband is unknown. He studied at the university of Lisbon before he left on his expeditions. He died on May, 29th 1500 from drowning on his last voyage at the Cape of Good Hope.
Before he became an explorer for João II, king of Portugal he was a squire in his court for about fifteen years where he watched over the royal warehouses. Then the king appointed him to go on the warship São Cristóvão which was his first sea endeavor. Then King John II appointed Dias to go on an expedition to find a new trading route with India on October, 10th 1486. He left ten months later in August of 1487. He was also sent to find the lands of a fabled christian priest named Prester John who ruled land beyond Europe in Ethiopia. Dias’ ship São Cristóvão was lead by Pêro de Alenquer. A second ship, the São Pantaleão, was commanded by João Infante and lead by Álvaro Martins. Dias’ brother Pêro Dias was the captain of the ship with João de Santiago as captain. The expedition sailed south along the west coast of Africa. More provisions were picked up on the way at the Portuguese fortress of São Jorge de Mina on the Gold Coast. After having sailed south of modern day Angola, Dias reached the Golfo da Conceição by December. For thirteen days he was stuck in a storm until he cleared the Cape of Good Hope where he headed east to catch the winds from Antarctica. After 30 days without seeing land, he entered what he named Aguada de São Brás, which was renamed to Mossel Bay on February, 4th 1488. Dias’s expedition reached its furthest point on 12 March 1488 when they anchored at Kwaaihoek, near the mouth of the Boesmans River. At that point the crew wanted to go back to Portugal so Dias was reluctant at first but then was forced to head back from there. It was only then when he actually discovered the Cape of Good Hope in may of 1488. Dias returned to Lisbon being gone for sixteen months and seventeen days.
The discovery of the passage around the southern tip of Africa was important because it allowed a new way to get to India instead of traveling on land. This was new to the explorers of the 1400’s and inspired more expeditions to be sent along this new passage. If this discovery never happened then later on Europe would not be trading with the eastern countries like China, Japan, and India. This made trading much more efficient because they didn’t have to travel on land and waste time and energy trying to navigate the landscape, and the boats could hold more cargo. Since they discovered the west they didn’t think to keep going to end up in India or China this was their way of getting to India for trade and conquest. It changed how we live today because if that never happened then the world be a very different place because trade routes would be different and culture and conquest would not have spread over there so soon, if at all.
On his first expedition, Dias was basically blind because no one has gone that way before. The trip was very difficult because the ships were very hard to navigate and the crew was very uneasy. Around the southern tip of Africa there was a massive storm that lasted for two weeks and made the crew scared for their lives. The storm was pushing them towards the shore and they didn’t want to be stuck on the rocks so they decided to go out into the atlantic ocean out into the uncharted waters, risking everything if he can’t find his way back. The maps that he had were useless because they were outdated and the area he was in was uncharted so they didn’t show him anything and he didn’t know where he was. Dias was being carried by an ocean gyre which is when the whole section of the ocean is moving in one direction like a conveyor belt. It was caused by winds that were going opposite of the Earth’s rotation. These gyres carried Dias and his ship back towards the south eastern coast of africa where he finally found land again. At this point his crew was done with this voyage and they all wanted to go back except for Dias, but he was eventually forced to turn around and head back to Portugal.
Soon after Dias came back to Portugal he wanted to continue exploring from his voyage, so he decided to go on another one. He helped a man named Vasco De Gama build two ships to sail to India in 1498. Their journey to go to India was going just fine, but Dias decided to stop at the Cape Verde Islands instead of continuing to India with Vasco De Gama. Two years later Dias became a sea captain with a man named Pedro Álvares Cabral to go on another expedition headed for India. This group of ships first went to the coast of Brazil, landing there in 1500, and then continued eastwards to India. Dias met his maker near the Cape of Good Hope that he ironically named Cape of Storms. Four ships sadly sailed right into a disastrous storm off the cape and were destroyed, including Dias’, on 29 May 1500.