The 4th of February 2018 commemorates 530 years that Bartolomeu Dias disembarked on a remote beach in the East African Coast.

The place became known by the Portuguese mariners and cartographers as Aguada de São Brás, later renamed Mossel Bay.

Bartolmeu Dias voyage was the crowning achievements of the Portuguese Discoveries for the reason that it changed the geographical and humanistic conception of the world by opening the communication with India and the Far East.

The Dias voyage opened the Cape maritime route to the world and represented on a scientific level the invalidation classic culture Ptolemaic theory and planetary vision which saw the Indian Ocean as an inland sea, land locked eastward of the cone of South Africa.

To quote the XVI century chronicler António Galvão, it can be said that Bartomeu Dias “saw the land of India, but did not enter it, like Moses and the Promised Land ” .Dias unlocked the doors for the Portuguese expansion, later achieved by Vasco da Gama and Afonso de Albuquerque.

It was also thirty years ago that the project of the reconstruction of a two –masted lateen-rigged caravel, similar to those used on the famous voyage of Bartolomeu Dias in 1487-1488,and the re-enactment of the historic odyssey took place.

Designed by the naval architect admiral Rogerio de Oilveira ,the new vessel was built in the shipyards of Vila do Conde, in Northern Portugal.

The enterprise was financed by the Portuguese Community of South Africa and the ship’s crew of 17 consisting mainly of compatriots from Cape Town.

Christened “Bartolomeu Dias“ and launched on 17th June 1987, the vessel under the command o Captain Emilio de Sousa set sail from Lisbon on 8th November 1987 for Mossel Bay (Anguada de São Brás ) in South Africa where it arrived on the 4th of February 1988, exactly 500 years after Bartolomeu Dias disembarked on the same spot.

The exact replica o Bartolomeu’s ship sailed by the contemporary Portuguese sailors is 23,5 metres long , has a beam of 6.6 metres and the average draught of 2.8 meters, displacing 120 tons, is on permanent exhibition in the Dias Museum in Mossel Bay.

Jay Fernandes
Master’s Degree G. Ph. from the University of Lisbon. Academic and teacher. Television , radio and press reporter / commentator