c. 1450 – 1500
Exploration Ranking 14th of 26
500th anniversary of Dias' triumphant voyage around the
horn of Africa. Republic of South Africa stamp from 1988.
In 1487-1488, Bartolemeu Dias led the first European expedition to round the Cape of Good Hope, the southwestern tip of South Africa. His courageous accomplishment opened the sea route to Asia via the Atlantic and Indian oceans and proved the existence of a sea route to India. Dias’ daring journey prepared the way for Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India a decade later.
In August 1487, King João II of Portugal sent out an expedition of three ships from Lisbon. It was led by Dias, who was instructed to open the sea route round Africa’s southern tip. King João believed that the way east would be clear once the Indian Ocean was reached. Off Cape Volta, the ships were caught in a terrible storm which lasted nearly two weeks. The terrified sailors were blown round the southern tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean. They sailed north to the Great Fish River and then turned round for home.
In 1488, on their way back to Portugal, Dias and his crew saw the Cape and realized their achievement. Dias named it “Cabo Tormentoso,” the Cape of Storms. King John renamed it the Cape of Good Hope, for a sea route to the East had been found.
1. Conquerors - How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire by Roger Crowley, 2015.