1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Diaz de Novaes, Bartholomeu

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DIAZ DE NOVAES, BARTHOLOMEU (fl. 1481-1500), Portuguese explorer, discoverer of the Cape of Good Hope, was probably a kinsman of João Diaz, one of the first Portuguese to round Cape Bojador (1434), and of Diniz Diaz, the discoverer of Cape Verde (1445). In 1478 a Bartholomeu Diaz, probably identical with the discoverer, was exempted from certain customary payments on ivory brought from the Guinea coast. In 1481 he commanded one of the vessels sent by King John II. under Diogo d’Azambuja to the Gold Coast. In 1486 he seems to have been a cavalier of the king’s household, and superintendent of the royal warehouses; on the 10th of October in this year he received an annuity of 6000 reis from King John for “services to come”; and some time after this (probably about July or August 1487, rather than July 1486, the traditional date) he left Lisbon with three ships to carry on the work of African exploration so greatly advanced by Diogo Cão (1482-1486). Passing Cão’s farthest point near Cape Cross (in the modern German South-west Africa and) in 21° 50′ S., he erected a pillar on what is now known as Diaz Point, south of Angra Pequena or Lüderitz Bay, in 26° 38′ S.; of this fragments still exist. From this point (according to De Barros) Diaz ran thirteen days southwards before strong winds, which freshened to dangerous stormy weather, in a comparatively high southern latitude, considerably south of the Cape. When the storm subsided the Portuguese stood east; and failing, after several days’ search, to find land, turned north, and so struck the south coast of Cape Colony at Mossel Bay (Diaz’ Bahia dos Vaqueiros), half way between the Cape of Good Hope and Port Elizabeth (February 3, 1488). Thence they coasted eastward, passing Algoa Bay (Diaz’ Bahia da Roca), erecting pillars (or perhaps wooden crosses), it is said, on one of the islands in this bay and at or near Cape Padrone farther east; of these no traces remain. The officers and men now began to insist on return, and Diaz could only persuade them to go as far as the estuary of the Great Fish River (Diaz’ Rio do Iffante, so named from his colleague, Captain João Iffante). Here, however, half way between Port Elizabeth and East London (and indeed from Cape Padrone), the north-easterly trend of the coast became unmistakable; the way round Africa had been laid open. On his return Diaz perhaps named Cape Agulhas after St Brandan; while on the southernmost projection of the modern Cape peninsula, whose remarkable highlands (Table Mountain, &c.) doubtless impressed him as the practical termination of the continent, he bestowed, says De Barros, the name of Cape of Storms (Cabo Tormentoso) in memory of the storms he had experienced in these far southern waters; this name (in the ordinary tradition) was changed by King John to that of Good Hope (Cabo da Boa Esperança). Some excellent authorities, however, make Diaz himself give the Cape its present name. Hard by this “so many ages unknown promontory” the explorer probably erected his last pillar. After touching at the Ilha do Principe (Prince’s Island, south-west of the Cameroons) as well as at the Gold Coast, he appeared at Lisbon in December 1488. He had discovered 1260 m. of hitherto unknown coast; and his voyage, taken with the letters soon afterwards received from Pero de Covilhão (who by way of Cairo and Aden had reached Malabar on one side and the “Zanzibar coast” on the other as far south as Sofala, in 1487-1488) was rightly considered to have solved the question of an ocean route round Africa to the Indies and other lands of South and East Asia.

No record has yet been found of any adequate reward for Diaz: on the contrary, when the great Indian expedition was being prepared (for Vasco da Gama’s future leadership) Bartolomeu only superintended the building and outfit of the ships; when the fleet sailed in 1497, he only accompanied da Gama to the Cape Verde Islands, and after this was ordered to El Mina on the Gold Coast. On Cabral’s voyage of 1500 he was indeed permitted to take part in the discovery of Brazil (April 22), and thence should have helped to guide the fleet to India; but he perished in a great storm off his own Cabo Tormentoso. Like Moses, as Galvano says, he was allowed to see the Promised Land, but not to enter in.

See João de Barros, Asia, Dec. I. bk. iii. ch. 4; Duarte Pacheco Pereira, Esmeraldo de situ orbis, esp. pp. 15, 90, 92, 94 and Raphael Bastos’s introduction to the edition of 1892 (Pacheco met Diaz, returning from his great voyage, at the Ilha do Principe); a marginal note, probably by Christopher Columbus himself, on fol. 13 of a copy of Pierre d’Ailly’s Imago mundi, now in the Colombina at Seville (the writer of this note fixes Diaz’s return to Lisbon, December 1488, and says he was present at Diaz’s interview with the king of Portugal, when the explorer described his voyage and showed his route upon the chart he had kept); a similar but briefer note in a copy of Pope Pius II.’s Historia rerum ubique gestarum, from the same hand; the Roteiro of Vasco da Gama’s First Voyage (Journal of the First Voyage of ... Da Gama, Hakluyt Soc., ed. E. G. Ravenstein (1898), pp. 9, 14); Ramusio, Navigationi (3rd ed.), vol. i. fol. 144; Castanheda, Historia, bk. i. ch. 1; Galvano, Descobrimentos (Discoveries of the World), Hakluyt Soc. (1862), p. 77; E. G. Ravenstein, “Voyages of ... Cão and ... Dias,” in Geog. Journ. (London, December 1900), vol. xvi. pp. 638-655), an excellent critical summary in the light of the most recent investigations of all the material. The fragments of Diaz’s only remaining pillar (from Diaz Point) are now partly at the Cape Museum, partly at Lisbon: the latter are photographed in Ravenstein’s paper in Geog. Journ. (December 1900, p. 642).

(C. R. B.)