Having made several voyages from Portugal down the west coast of
Africa, Bartholomeu Dias was recognized as one of the most knowledgeable
of the Portuguese explorers on the subject of the waters off of the Dark Continent
when, in August of 1487, he was tapped by the Crown to open a trans-African
trade route to India.
Six months after starting out, he made history by landing on the southeast
coast of Africa -- the first European to do so. It seemed that he was well on
his way to fulfilling his charter, but after making more progress, the crew of
his two ships, not only losing faith but also having lost their separate supply
ship, encouraged Dias to turn back prematurely, leaving a spot in
the history books open for Vasco da Gama to reach India and lay the foundation
for trade some 10 years later.
Upon his return to Lisbon in December of 1488, he reported to the court and
to the public the details of his journey. In the audience, paying close attention, and furiously taking notes, was another accomplished seaman, from Genoa, Italy,
by the name of Cristoforo Colombo.