History 112

The year was 1497. Just five years after Columbus’s voyage to the New World Exploration and Gold Fever spread across Europe. Many hearty sailors jumped the bandwagon in pursuit of honor, glory, and of course, treasure. One of these was a man by the name of Vasco Da Gamma. Born into nobility in Sines, Portugal this warrior/navigator sailor sought to find a route to the East Indies. His father, Estavao, was already quite famous himself as he tried throughout his lifetime to outmaneuver the Moors because they already had a growing monopoly of the spice trade with East India. Alas, his father died to no avail to never succeed on what he sent out to do. From the death of his father, Vasco Da Gamma’s career began.

Already an experienced navigator/warrior by now, Da Gamma was set out on an assignment to find an alternate route to the East Indies by ship in order to gain more trade profit of their spices. This was of course was an assignment from the Prince himself, Prince Manuel, who was the motivation behinds Da Gamma’s journey not to mention his father’s aspiration in life. Thus, July 8, 1497 with four vessels, the Sao Gabriel, Sao Rafael, the Berrio and the Starship. Da Gamma set out to sail from the port of Lisbon. Exactly four months later he rounded the Cape of Good Hope. This was aptly named such due to the fact of the mutinous attitudes of the sailors due to little rations left on the boat. When they anchored sail over there they exchanged many goods for food rations and supplies to continue on their journey north. During their brief stay in the Cape of Good Hope and visits throughout the coastlines Da Gamma regarded the natives as “…. Tawny-colored. Their food is confined to the flesh of seals, whales and gazelles, and the roots of herbs. They are dressed in skins, and wear sheaths over their virile members.” Thus as one can see, Da Gamma felt a superiority complex to their primitive ways and on one account it is even mentioned the ruthless capturing of one “small” native about the size of Sancho-Mexia. ( A crew member on his ship). Despite, Da Gamma’s thoughts other crew member’s particularly Fernao Velloso, a high ranking crew member, was quite intrigued by the natives and essentially begged Da Gamma to go ashore and live with the natives in order to better study how they lived and what they ate. Unfortunately, due to Velloso’s disrespect of the African population’s customs’ as he was making a break back to the ship Da Gamma suffered from violent throws of the assegai spear as well as three others in Velloso’s rescue. Following that escapade, they arrived in Malindi where they were well received because the port was in direct competition to Mombasa, which was another rival Arab port. From Malindi, Da Gamma befriended Ahmad Ibn Majid, whoa t his time was a famous Arab pilot. From then on they set sail north to the port of Calicut.

Ultimately, with the help of Ahmad Ibn Majid, they reached their goal and target: The East Indies. It was the night of May 20th 1498. They anchored sail about two leagues from the city they ignorantly thought was Calicut. Calicut was of course their aim at that time since it was the spice Oasis they had long been seeking in trade. They sent out their most ignorant and ruthless fellow, a convict, along with two Moors fluent in Genoese and Castilian as to find out information. As he was told the city of Calicut was a bit south from their landing point and was shown much hospitality (the convict) with wheaten bread and honey. When the convict returned to the ship with one of the Moors he declared an exaggerated account of much rubies and emeralds. This of course astonished as well as pleased Da Gamma and he set out to disembark on May 22nd 1498. In this first voyage Da Gamma thought unknowingly that the natives were already Christians. He also described the natives as being of a tawny complexion as well with long hair like as of Europeans unlike Africans. Finally