Bartolomeu Dias (c. 1451 – 29 May 1500), a nobleman of the Portuguese royal household, was a Portuguese explorer. He sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488, reaching the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic, the first European known to have done so.
Bartolomeu Dias was a Knight of the royal court, superintendent of the royal warehouses, and sailing-master of the man-of-war, São Cristóvão (Saint Christopher). King John II of Portugal appointed him, on 10 October 1487, to head an expedition to sail around the southern tip of Africa in the hope of finding a trade route to India. Dias was also charged with searching for the lands ruled by Prester John, who was a fabled Christian priest and ruler.
Dias' ship São Cristóvão was piloted by Pêro de Alenquer. A second caravel, the São Pantaleão, was commanded by João Infante and piloted by Álvaro Martins. Dias' brother Pêro Dias was the captain of the square-rigged support ship with João de Santiago as pilot. The expedition sailed south along the West coast of Africa. Extra provisions were picked up on the way at the Portuguese fortress of São Jorge de Mina on the Gold Coast. After having sailed past Angola, Dias reached the Golfo da Conceicão (Walvis Bay) by December. Continuing south, he discovered first Angra dos Ilheus, being hit, then, by a violent storm. Thirteen days later, from the open ocean, he searched the coast again to the east, discovering and using the westerlies winds - the ocean gyre, but finding just ocean. Having rounded the Cape of Good Hope at a considerable distance to the west and southwest, he turned towards the east, and taking advantage of the winds of Antarctica that blow strongly in the South Atlantic, he sailed northeast. After 30 days without seeing land, he entered what he named Aguada de São Brás (Bay of Saint Blaise)—later renamed Mossel Bay—on 4 February 1488. Dias's expedition reached its furthest point on 12 March 1488 when they anchored at Kwaaihoek, near the mouth of the Bushman's River, where a padrão—the Padrão de São Gregório—was erected before turning back. Dias wanted to continue sailing to India, but he was forced to turn back when his crew refused to go further. It was only on the return voyage that he actually discovered the Cape of Good Hope, in May 1488. Dias returned to Lisbon in December of that year, after an absence of sixteen months. The discovery of the passage around southern Africa was significant because, for the first time, Europeans realized they could trade directly with India and the other parts of Asia, bypassing the overland route through the Middle East, with its expensive middlemen. The official report of the expedition has been lost. Bartolomeu Dias originally named the Cape of Good Hope the "Cape of Storms" (Cabo das Tormentas). It was later renamed (by King John II of Portugal) the Cape of Good Hope (Cabo da Boa Esperança) because it represented the opening of a route to the east.
After these early attempts, the Portuguese took a decade-long break from Indian Ocean exploration. During that hiatus, it is likely that they received valuable information from a secret agent, Pêro da Covilhã, who had been sent overland to India and returned with reports useful to their navigators.Using his experience with explorative travel, Dias helped in the construction of the São Gabriel and its sister ship, the São Rafael that were used by Vasco da Gama to circumnavigate the Cape of Good Hope and continue the route to India. Dias only participated in the first leg of Gama's voyage, until the Cape Verde Islands. He was then one of the captains of the second Indian expedition, headed by Pedro Álvares Cabral. This flotilla first reached the coast of Brazil, landing there in 1500, and then continued eastwards to India. Dias perished near the Cape of Good Hope that he presciently had named Cape of Storms. Four ships encountered a huge storm off the cape and were lost, including Dias', on 29 May 1500. A shipwreck found in 2008 by the Namdeb Diamond Corporation off Namibia was at first thought to be Dias' ship; however, recovered coins come from a later time.