Bartholomew Diaz

Bartholomew Diaz

Bartholomew Diaz was born in 1450 in Algavre, Portugal. Little is known about his youth. Before he began traveling, he was the supervisor of the magazines of King John II. On October 10, 1486, he was appointed commander of an expedition to circumnavigate the southern tip of Africa in the hope of finding a new, safer and more profitable trade route with India and finding a mythical kingdom managed by the legendary Priest John.

He set out on the expedition in August the following year. Until then, the Portuguese sailors under the protectorate of Henry the Navigator were discovering the areas of the Atlantic Ocean, southern Europe and western parts of Africa to the Cape Verde Islands and today’s Sierra Leone. During these trips they gained enough knowledge about sailing and winds to enable future expeditions to travel further distances. In the early 1480s, Diego Cao discovered the estuary of the Congo River and sailed south of Ecuador to today’s Angola and Namibia.

Diaz’ expedition to the south of Africa

The expedition further south was provoked by Father of Diaz and Bartholomew himself was somehow forced to prepare an expedition under the ultimatum of killing his crew. The expedition consisted of three ships and was ready in 1486. Sao Cristóvao was controlled by Pero de Alenquera.

The second caravel called Sao Pantaleao was commanded by Joao Infante and controlled by Álvaro Martins. Diaz’s brother Pero, who commanded the ship supporting the expedition, also took part in the expedition, while Joao de Santiago was the helmsman. The expedition sailed south along the west coast of Africa. Along the way, travelers managed to replenish their supplies at the Portuguese fortress on the Gold Coast. Sailing further south from the area of ​​today’s Angola, on December 8, 1487, Diaz reached the bay of Walvis (now Namibia).

Then he sailed further south, where he discovered Port Nolloth, after which the expedition experienced a terrifying storm. After two weeks, they found themselves in the open ocean from where Diaz wanted to find the coast, which failed, but discovered western winds and ocean vortices. He was aware of the old Venetian maps of 1460 and the knowledge acquired by travelers from other expeditions, he knew that on the other side of Africa is the Indian Ocean and therefore still headed to the southeast.

Circling the southern coast of Africa, it changed course east and, taking advantage of the strong Antarctic winds, further north-east. After a month in the open sea, he came across a place he called St. Blaise Bay (later Mossel Bay). The Portuguese expedition reached its furthest point on March 12, 1488, when it reached Kwaaihoek next to the mouth of the Boesmans River.

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope, Source: Wikipedia

Bartholomew wanted to continue his journey towards India, but his crew’s revolt due to food shortages forced him to take a return course. All officers also voted unanimously to return to Portugal. And really it was only on the way back that Diaz discovered the Cape of Good Hope, it was May 1488. Originally Diaz called this place Cape of Storms, but King John II decided to change the name, because it bode well for future trade activities with the East. Diaz returned to Lisbon in December the same year after almost 16 months away from home.

Preparations for the Vasco da Gama expedition to India

After his success, the Portuguese for 10 years gave up further exploration of the Indian Ocean, for this they received valuable information from the serving crown of the Portuguese diplomat and traveler, Pero da Covilha, who was sent to India from where he brought useful information for navigators.

Based on his travel experience, Diaz helped build two ships – Sao Gabriel and Sao Rafael, which were used by Vasco da Gama in 1498, who continued the Bartholomew mission. Diaz prepared the expedition and participated in it himself. But when they reached Cape Verde Diaz left it. Vasco da Gama continous his journey and he finally get to India in May 1498. The discovery of an alternative route to India was very significant because for the first time in history, Europeans could trade with India and the Far East bypassing the land without using the services of incredibly expensive brokers and guides.

Bartholomew Diaz’ second expedition

Two years later he was one of the captains of the second expedition, which was to lead the Portuguese to India. The expedition was commanded by Pedro Alvares Cabral. In 1500 the fleet reached Brazil and then continued its journey east to India. Unfortunately, this was the last expedition of the Portuguese explorer, on May 29, 1500, he died near the Cape of Good Hope during a storm.

However, this is not entirely confirmed, because coins from later periods were found on the wreck of the ship found in 2008. Dias was married and had two children. His files and accounts of the expedition were kept at the castle of Sao Jorge in Lisbon. Unfortunately, the castle burned down during the earthquake in 1755, and with it Dias accounts. Later, historians most likely recreated Dias’s travel route from 1488.

Bartholomew Diaz route

Bartholomew Diaz route

Source: Wikipedia


  • 1450, Bartholomew Diaz was born
  • 1470 In the early 1970s, The 17th century extended trade between Portugal, Guinea and other parts of west Africa.
  • 1474 Bartholomew's father order him to find the entire waterway around southern Africa
  • 1476 Dias was forced to continue his mission - his father gives him an ultimatum: if he opposes, the entire by the time crew dies
  • 1486 Dias built a fleet of three ships under his brother Diogo. The fleet went to sea in 1486
  • December 8, 1487, Diaz passed the Cao tag near Walvis Bay (Whale Bay)
  • 6 January 1488 Diaz's expedition was stopped due to bad atmospheric wamarkets
  • 3 February 1488, Diaz and his crew spotted glimpses of the mainland. Unwittingly, Diaz circled the southern end of Africa
  • 12 March 1488 A marker was placed in Kwaaihoek, Cape Province, to indicate the easternmost point of Portuguese exploration
  • 1488 On the way back, he discovers the Cape of the Storms - later renamed Cape of Good Hope
  • 1490 Diaz settled in Guinea, West Africa. He was ordered to become a ship building consultant for the Vasco de Gamy expedition
  • 1498 Diaz sailed with Vasco Da Gama - he leaves expedition after reaching Cape Verde
  • 1500 Bartholomew Diaz was named captain of one ship in the Expedition of Cabral. The goal was India
  • May 1500 Bartholomew Diaz died during a storm at Cape of Good Hope
  • 1755 Sao Jorge castle burned down during the Lisbon earthquake, along with all the records of Dias's life and travel


Map of the world 1720

Age of exploration

Great Age of exploration starts with improved sailing techniques and progressive development of trade in the Mediterranean Sea and open waters in 15th century. This story shows geographical discoveries and causes and effects on different cultures.

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