On this day in 1488 the first European ship from the Age of Discovery landed at the part of Africa just behind the Cape of Good Hope.
It was truly a historical undertaking since it was the first time a European expedition sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa. The leader of the expedition was the famous Portuguese mariner and explorer Bartolomeu Dias. This Portuguese expedition revealed a way to India around Africa, which allowed the Europeans to avoid a hostile intermediary – the Ottoman Empire.
During the 15th century the Portuguese slowly expanded their knowledge of the African coast. Around 1434 they reached what is now Mauritania. They first crossed the equator around 1473, and around 1482 they sailed to what is now the Congo. Bartolomeu Dias’s undertaking of 1488 included a voyage along the entire Atlantic coast of Africa, up to its southernmost tip.
Dias’s expedition took place around four-and-a-half years before Columbus’s discovery of America. Interestingly, Dias’s voyage was actually longer than Columbus’s. Furthermore, Dias and Columbus were roughly the same age, while Dias’s flagship was called São Cristóvão (the Portuguese name for St. Christopher).
On this day Bartolomeu Dias landed near the southernmost tip of Africa, at a bay called Aguada de São Brás (the Watering Place of St. Blaize). He chose this name because this day – 3 February – is the feast of St. Blaize according to Catholic tradition.