When Bartholomeu Diaz had found the southern tip of Africa in 1488 and the other side through Covilham’s explorations in India and East Africa [»Maant. and a finder.» I, p. 427] it had been learned that the east coast of Africa ran steadily towards the south, so according to the probability the sea route to India had been cleared. However, it was found to be so long and arduous that in the following years, Portugal did not have the funds and did not want to send a fleet to sail this route, because it was clear that quite a lot of power was needed for that, if one wanted to move safely in the much traveled waters of India.
The discovery of America gave a new stimulus to the Portuguese, although the papal division of lands, of which we have before mentioned, in some measure secured them from the competition of Spain. As the maps were incomplete, it was nevertheless to be feared that the Spaniards might at least usurp the Moluccas, from which the Most Expensive Spices came, for their way across the ocean seemed to be much shorter. Even in Portugal, one could only assume that Columbus had really arrived on the east coast of Asia.
However, the change of ruler still delayed the implementation of the intention. King Juhana prepared an expedition, but died in the middle of his work in 1495. His successor, the young King Manuel, to whom the later world has given the name of the Great, because in his time Portugal completed its most famous part of world history, at first did not receive the support of his advisors, and the sending of the expedition was therefore delayed, the king despite the bold entrepreneurship. It wasn’t until 1497 that equipment was really started. They were led by the experienced Bartholomeu Diaz himself, who however was not entrusted with the leadership of the trip. Vasco da Gama was tasked with taking the Portuguese flag and happiness to Indian waters.
Equipping the expedition.
The expedition consisted of only four ships, the largest of which was about 120 tonnage, another one 100 tons and both others even smaller. However, it is unlikely that these dimensions correspond to the current ones; with good reason to conclude that Gama’s ships, as well as Columbus’s, were at least twice as large. The ships were all of the same model as possible to be able to use each other’s equipment when necessary. By the king’s order they were given double ropes and sails, and plenty of fire-arms and stores, all kinds of provisions and merchandise, and a small ship’s lodge in every ship. Of course, the priest came along, because at that time the priest was more important than the doctor. Besides, by the king’s order, a great deal of merchandise of every kind, which was produced in the country, was taken with them, clothes with gold and silver letters, clothes of all kinds and colors, precious stones, bracelets, scrolls, gilded silver jugs, embroidered knives, swords, daggers, both unjeweled and embroidered and trimmed with gold and silver. Jeweled shields and spears were also taken, which were suitable as gifts for rulers and princes, and all kinds of spices were sampled. Stamped gold and silver were also taken as money. The king ordered to buy slaves who knew the languages of the East and could interpret them for the Portuguese. All needs were abundantly provided, and even then in double quantity. Jeweled shields and spears were also taken, which were suitable as gifts for rulers and princes, and all kinds of spices were sampled. Stamped gold and silver were also taken as money. The king ordered to buy slaves who knew the languages of the East and could interpret them for the Portuguese. All needs were abundantly provided, and even then in double quantity. Jeweled shields and spears were also taken, which were suitable as gifts for rulers and princes, and all kinds of spices were sampled. Stamped gold and silver were also taken as money. The king ordered to buy slaves who knew the languages of the East and could interpret them for the Portuguese. All needs were abundantly provided, and even then in double quantity.
Vasco da Gama’s expedition was procured with great care. The leader of the trip, who was 37 years old at the time, came from southern Portugal and belonged to an old noble family. In his younger days he had gained fame in the war against Castile, later as a brave sailor. There were a couple of hundred crew on the ships in total. The leader of the expedition received letters of recommendation from both the legendary “priest king Juhana” and the kings of Asia. On the day of departure, King Manuel and his superiors, together with those who were going on the journey and the most prominent persons of Lisbon, gathered for a solemn mass, which was celebrated in the cathedral on the north bank of the Tagus. Vasco da Gama with his brother Paulo and all the captains fell on their knees, praying for strength and ability to fulfill the king’s orders, for the extension of his power and empire, and for the spread of Christianity to distant lands. In July 1497, a small fleet set sail from the port of Lisbon. Bartholomeu Diaz escorted it to the coast of Guinea.
In storms on the west coast of Africa.
The first half of the trip went well. From the coast of Guinea, we headed straight across the sea towards the Cape of Good Hope. Until then, I thought it had been the same northeast trade wind that had so favorably transported Columbus to the West Indies, but continuing the journey from the coast of Guinea, one came first to the depths of the equator and then to the region of the southwest trade wind, where the opposite wind prevailed all the way to the southern tip of Africa, as well as the opposite sea current. The ships of that time were comparatively clumsy to maneuver and overcoming this challenge therefore required a lot of time and work from Gamanki’s ships.
The winds were very strong, says Correa, who has written an account of this trip, and the sea had scary waves. The sailors were not exhausted at work and overworked themselves. After sailing south for a month, we turned towards the coast of Africa. It was met, but we were still a long way from the Cape of Good Hope. We therefore headed for the open sea again and continued the journey, even though most of the crew would have preferred to go back. It wasn’t until another month had passed, perhaps even more, that the Cape of Good Hope could be set down. Gama himself was tirelessly working, allowing himself no sleep or rest. The days kept getting shorter, as we reached the winter of the southern hemisphere. To the Portuguese it seemed to be almost perpetual night. The sailors were so sick with disease and fear, that they could hardly cook their meals anymore. They whined and demanded to turn back. But Vasco da Gama was a tough man, and even though the crew was freezing cold in the cold torrential rains, he vowed not to return from the voyage, come what may. In the bay of Helena, which is some distance north of the Cape of Good Hope, the fourth ship, which was a cargo ship, was abandoned, set on fire, and its crew was divided among the other ships. Astrolabe was used to determine the latitude of the place, if it was possible on a rocking ship. which is some distance north of the Cape of Good Hope, the fourth ship, which was a cargo ship, was abandoned, set on fire, and its crew distributed among the other ships. Astrolabe was used to determine the latitude of the place, if it was possible on a rocking ship. which is some distance north of the Cape of Good Hope, the fourth ship, which was a cargo ship, was abandoned, set on fire, and its crew distributed among the other ships. Astrolabe was used to determine the latitude of the place, if it was possible on a rocking ship.
In a storm lasting many days, we finally sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. The trip was still quite stormy, the waves washed over the deck and the ships began to leak more and more. There was no rest at night, nor during the day, neither physically nor mentally. But Gama swore holy oaths that he would not turn back until he had been to India. The mood among the crew became so desperate that a conspiracy was formed against him. But through a ship’s boy, the conspiracy came to the knowledge of the captain-in-chief, he allowed the leaders to be captured, and it is said that in his rage he threw all his ship’s books into the sea, so that the mutineers would not be able to return, even if they were otherwise successful in their mutiny project. The captains and pilots remained loyal to their leader.
on the east coast of Africa.
It wasn’t until the beginning of January in 1498 that they landed on the eastern shore, repaired the damage suffered by the ship and took drinking water, because in the constant storms many vessels had been broken and the water had leaked out. The inhabitants of the country were friendly, and that’s why the place was named »Water of Good Peace». Had already sailed past Delagoa Bay and approached the hot zone again. At Cap Corriente the squadron was met by the Mozambique current, which on this coast is very fast, and for many days detained the sailors before they could pass the cape. In order to avoid the dangerous shore reefs, the ships landed further away and thus passed the bend where Sofala is. They arrived with great difficulty in the Zambesi estuary. This mighty river was named »The River of Good Omens», because lighter-skinned people were first found there, who knew how to speak the Arabic language and told that there were many ships sailing in the sea towards the north. So the southern limits of the Arab trading movement had been reached, and it could be assumed with good reason that the greatest difficulties had been overcome.
Gama stayed in the Zambesi Delta for a whole month to repair his ships and give the crew rest and time to recover from the scurvy that had begun to wreak havoc. A similar statue of a coat of arms was taken to the beach, which previous explorers had erected on the shores of Africa. Then we set sail again and arrived in Mozambique. The first Arab ships, »sambukas», with people in Arab dress, were found there; these inquired about the amount of the Portuguese journey. Gama replied that he was on his way to India by the King of Portugal and asked them for pilots.
In the beginning, the courtship seemed to settle down peacefully. Mozambique, whose chief was a subject of the Arab prince of Kiloa, had grown into a busy trading post. With their change, the local Arabs bought gold, ivory, wax and other products from the blacks. From Mozambique it was usually sailed across the sea to Madagascar. Gama sent gifts to the sheikh, after which he arrived on his ship, dressed in a richly pleated, colorful dress, with a magnificent variegated silk turban on his head. The Portuguese thought that the skin color of these Moors was very dark. The sheik carefully looked at the ships, which were brand new, not a model he had seen before. Vasco da Gama informed him that they had been sent by the mightiest king of Christendom, and that, after wandering at sea for a couple of years, they were now on their way to the Spice Islands and needed pilots. After returning to land, the sheikh sent Gama provisions. after which three Abyssinians arrived as guests, with whom, however, it was impossible to converse for want of an interpreter. A more useful acquaintance was a Moor named Davané, from whom Gama obtained much valuable information about these little-known regions. But the good relations with the Arabs soon deteriorated. Namely, these started to suspect the newcomers and fear that they would spoil the trade through their competition. At the very first port where the Portuguese met the Arabs, the Arabs perceived the danger of Gama’s expedition and decided to destroy him and his men. However, the Sheik still pretended to be friendly, gave the pilots and invited Gama ashore as his guest. Due to the warning of the aforementioned Davané, however, Gama did not follow the invitation. He just asked that a suitable place on land would be pointed out to him, where the ships’ boats could draw water. While some of the Portuguese were ashore taking water, the Arabs with their ships intended to attack Gama’s fleet. But the vigilance of the Portuguese, and the superiority of their arms, foiled the plot. Gama equipped the boats with both cannons and armed men and sent them ashore at night, when the water was at its highest. The Arab pilot led the boats astray all night, hoping in the morning, when the tide came in, to run them aground. But the leader of the Portuguese noticed the danger in time, had the boats turned, and planned to hang the pilot on the mast as a precaution, for example. However, the pilot was able to jump into the sea and was rescued ashore. When the boats, chasing after him, got close to the land, so they began to shoot arrows and throw stones from the ambush, and the boats then, having received a signal from Gama, returned back. The sheik, realizing that his plot had been revealed, sent to Gama to apologize and gave others better pilots.
Vasco da Gama had several miscreants on his ships, whom he had been given to take ashore to dangerous places. It was a custom that if they successfully completed a life-threatening task, they were forgiven for their punishment. A man named Machado now managed to carry word to the sheikh that his integrity was suspected and that all communication with him was therefore suspended. Machado happily accomplished this, and then went on all sorts of adventures, overland to Kilo and Mombasa, and thence finally to India. After erecting a coat-of-arms statue near Mozambique to mark the conquest of the country, Gama set out to sea again. Davané followed along; he had begun to learn the Portuguese language, so that much valuable information was obtained from him about the commercial conditions of the Indian seas. But we were hardly on our way again when it was noticed that the Mozambican pilot had steered the ships into the middle of the rocks. The deception was discovered in time and the pilot was flogged. The Portuguese had been too shrewd to trust him alone, and escaped danger. Following the coast, we then sailed further towards Kiloa, which had been said to be a large trading place. According to a rumor, Christian Armenians were also supposed to arrive there sometime.
But contrary winds prevented the fleet from reaching Kilo. Vasco da Gama’s own ship, »San Rafael«, ran aground on a sand bar, but was saved. Sailing past Zanzibar, we reached Mombasa in the last week of April. There, too, the sheikh was friendly at first, but he had treachery on his mind. He had probably received a warning from Mozambique that the foreigners were pirates. When Gama was about to put the city into the harbor, many small ships came from there, with music and all kinds of honors, to escort the guests to the city. But the Portuguese allowed only ten men in each ship, and that some secret project was in the works was seen by these men, when, due to a small alarm in one of the ships, they immediately jumped into the sea. At night, in the moonlight, we therefore left Mombasa in a hurry and continued sailing as carefully as possible, as the pilots were not trusted. Soon two sambuks were seen in the sea, coming to Mombasa. One of these was forced to turn back and show the way to Melinde, sailing ahead; the crew of the Arab ship was for the most part taken to the Portuguese ships. After three nights and two days of sailing, Melinde was reached, where the Portuguese squadron finally received a friendly reception. the crew of the Arab ship was for the most part taken to the Portuguese ships. After three nights and two days of sailing, Melinde was reached, where the Portuguese squadron finally received a friendly reception. the crew of the Arab ship was for the most part taken to the Portuguese ships. After three nights and two days of sailing, Melinde was reached, where the Portuguese squadron finally received a friendly reception.
Friendly reception in Melinde.
As a test, Gama sent some of his officers ashore to greet the sheikh of Melinda. There were so many people gathered on the beach that the authorities had to use sticks to clear a way for the guests through the crowd. The Sheik of Melinda received Captain Coelho and his interpreter Daviné in the most friendly manner, asked all kinds of questions about their journey and their homeland, and finally presented Coelho with white and variegated silk clothes and a precious ring, then escorted him to the shore himself. The next day he and Gama rowed themselves aboard an Arab ship to meet each other in neutral territory. The whole shore, the wide roofs of the white houses and the walls of the city were full of curious people, when Vasco da Gama and his brother in full festive dress, with the ship firing salutes from all its cannons, in flagged boats went to Sambukki. where the scene was supposed to take place. Melinde, because of competition, was in bad harmony with the other ports on the coast, where the Portuguese had first turned, and therefore the guests were well received there. The Sheik was presented with a precious sword, spear, and shield, and parted in good friendship after the conversation was over. The Portuguese were shown a place on land where the crew, much worn out by sickness on the unhealthy coast of Africa, could refresh their strength. Later, Gama visited the sheikh in his own castle. The Sheikh told him that Kalikut was the center of the Malabar-ranmkoila spice trade and promised to give the squadron a reliable pilot to lead it there. At the same time, he advised the Portuguese not to pay too high prices for goods, so that the market would not be corrupted. The sheik then came to Gama’s for a return visit before the fleet left, and in “San Rafael” celebrations were held in his honor. When Gama, with his permission, had also erected a marble statue in Melinde, then under the guidance of a skillful pilot, we continued to sail, steering straight across the sea. The voyage went well, although it was not yet the time of the south-west monsoon, and in the middle of May, after 22 days of sailing, the coast of East India came into view. On the way, da Gama showed the pilot his large wooden astrolabe and metal quadrants, with which he measured the height of the sun and stars, but the pilot was not very surprised by them, they were familiar objects to him. He said that the Red Sea uses something similar, but he himself said that he steers according to some familiar stars,
Come to India.
The mountains of Kananor gradually rose from the waves behind the open sea, and as we got closer, the houses of the town of the same name began to be seen. Fishing boats came to take a closer look at the strange ships, their strange structure and the white skin of the men aroused great wonder. But Gama did not remain at Kananor, but continued along the coast towards the south, until at last, on the 20th of May, the fleet arrived at the destination of their journey, the port of Calicut. The news of the arrival of the strangers spread quickly, witches and soothsayers were asked for advice as to what their appearance might mean, for a story circulated among the inhabitants of the country that a distant king with white subjects would one day usurp the whole country and rule it, and that his people would do them much harm, who were not his friends.