Bartholomew Dias was a Portuguese nobleman who was chosen by the King of Portugal to lead an expedition that would sail around the horn of Africa for the purposes of finding a trading route by sea to India. In addition, Dias would search for the Kingdom of Prester John, who was said to rule over a vast Christian empire, filled with riches and magical creatures, somewhere in Asia. During the time of Dias' expedition, the seas and oceans were largely unexplored and water routes between Europe and Asia had not yet been established.
Dias's ship, the Sao Cristovao, and two other ships left Portugal in 1487 and set sail south along the west coast of Africa. By December of 1487, Dias had reached the west African nation of Angola. As his expedition continued south, it endured a violent storm which caused the expedition to stray south and west to a latitude well south of the horn of Africa. Turning northeast, Dias entered modern-day Mossel Bay, about 250 miles east of present-day Capetown.
A Drawing of the Sao Cristovao
Discovery of the Cape of Good Hope
Although Dias wanted to sail east to Asia, his crew refused and Dias was forced to return to Portugal. Early into the return trip, Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope in May of 1488. Dias named it "the Cape of Storms," but it was renamed by the Cape of Good Hope by the Portuguese King John II as it represented a monumental discovery and potential trade with Asia. By 1497, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama had successfully sailed around Africa to India and Asia. Bartholomew Dias is thought to have died in 1500 when a ship he was on wrecked during a terrible storm near the Cape of Good Hope.