Vasco da Gama

November 24, 2012 7:17 pm

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Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama is best remembered as the first European to sail from Europe to India. The sea route he found helped Portugal build a rich empire overseas.
EARLY LIFE
Vasco da Gama was born in Sines, Portugal, around 1469. As a young man, da Gama studied navigation and astronomy. He went on to serve as an officer in the Portuguese navy.
In 1497, the king of Portugal asked da Gama to find a sea route to India by sailing around Africa. This would allow Portugal to control the rich Indian spice trade.
Could da Gama do it? Earlier Portuguese expeditions had rounded the southern tip of Africa. But these trips were long, difficult, and dangerous. Was it possible to travel from Europe to India in a single voyage?
VOYAGE TO INDIA
In July 1497, da Gama set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, with four ships. By January 1498, the expedition reached Mozambique on Africa’s southeastern coast. But Arab traders in Mozambique disliked the Portuguese. They drove da Gama away.
Farther north, on the coast of Kenya, da Gama recruited an Arab sailor to guide his ships across the Indian Ocean. In May 1498, they reached Calicut on India’s coast.
In Calicut, da Gama found pearls, jewels, and wonderful spices for sale. But the king and local merchants refused to trade with the Portuguese. Furious, da Gama sailed away. He arrived in Portugal in 1499 and was honored as a hero.
DA GAMA RETURNS TO INDIA
In 1502, da Gama made a second voyage to India. He returned to Calicut with warships and soldiers. Da Gama sank merchant vessels and killed many civilians. The king of Calicut surrendered.
Da Gama sailed home to Portugal carrying a rich cargo of spice. Portugal soon built a valuable trading empire in India.
In 1524, da Gama made his last voyage to India. The Portuguese king had named da Gama the governor of Portugal’s possessions there. Da Gama died three months after reaching India.
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