Bartolomeu Dias was born in Portugal in 1457. He was born into a noble family. His father was a member of the royal court. Dias was well educated and received the title of "Master of the Portuguese Man-of-War", Sao Cristovao. In 1481, Dias joined Diogo d'Azambuja to explore the Gold Coast of Africa.
On October 10th, 1486 King John II of Portugal appointed Dias the leader of an expedition to sail around the Southern Tip of Africa and make contact with the Christian leader of Ethiopia. After preparing for ten months, Dias set sail in August 1847, with two armed caravels and a supply ship. The expedition made its way down the coast of Africa. In January 1488, Dias unknowingly, in the midst of strong storm sailed around the Cape of Good Hope.
On February 3, 1488, after traveling North Dias anchored in Mossel Harbor two hundred and thirty miles east of today's Cape Town. Dias continued North along the coast for three hundred miles to the mouth of the Great Fish River and into Algoa Bay. Dias wanted to go on into the Indian Ocean and to India, but his crew would have none of it. They were short on supplies and worn out. Dias agreed to return to Lisbon. In December 1488 he returned to Lisbon. He had proved that it was possible to circle Africa.