Vasco da Gama


Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese nobleman and admiral, who led the first successful voyage from Europe to the Far East by rounding the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. Although his first voyage succeeded in reaching the desired destination, only two of his ships returned to Portugal, and more than half of his crew died en route. Arab traders controled virtually all of the trading posts in the region, and his fleet had been too small to resist them, yet after numerous adventures and hair-raising confrontations, he succeeded in his mission. He learned much about weather, navigation and political conditions that was crucial in future journeys, and made enough trade contacts so that future adventures could establish permanent trading routes.

Three years after returning to Portugal da Gama led a second voyage to the far east, this time with 20 warships. Their greatly superior armaments allowed them to prevail over the Arab traders who dominated the area. Most of the battles fought by the Portuguese were directed against Arab merchants. The fleet captured, looted, and destroyed virtually every Arab trading ship it encountered and won a navel battle against the Arab fleet outside Calicut. After establishing Portuguese dominance and signing treaties with several trading posts in India and Africa, his fleet returned to Portugal laden with rich products from the east.

Da Gama lived many years in retirement before being recalled to the east in 1524. He replaced the current viceroy of the region, but died only a few month after reaching India.

Key events during the life of Vasco da Gama:

Birth of Vasco da Gama in Portugal
  Fought against Ferdinand in Portuguese war against Castile.
Bartholomew Diaz rounds the Cape of Good Hope in Africa
July: Embarks on first voyage to India
May: Arrives at Calicut in India
August: Two of da Gama's ships return to Portugal—half of crew died en route.
Leads a fleet of 20 warships to India.
Returns to Portugal and retires with honors
Died of malaria on final voyage to India.

Book Links
Voyages and Adventures of Vasco da Gama  by  George Towle

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Vasco da Gama  in  South Africa  by  Ian D. Colvin
Vasco da Gama  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
How Europe Found the Sea-Road to India  in  India: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
How Brave Men Went Sailing upon Unknown Seas  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Vasco da Gama's Great Voyage  in  The Discovery of New Worlds  by  M. B. Synge
Vasco da Gama Reaches India  in  A Book of Discovery  by  M. B. Synge
Vasco de Gama Reaches India by Rounding Africa  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

Vasco da Gama meets the Zamorin of Calicut
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Vasco da Gama landing at Kalicut
 in India: Peeps at History

Portugese Explorers
 in The Discovery of New Worlds

Vasco de Gama
 in A Book of Discovery

A Ship of Vasco De Gama's Time
 in European Hero Stories

Fleet of Vasco da Gama sets sail.
 in The Adventures of Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama quells a mutiny
 in The Adventures of Vasco da Gama

Visit of the Sheik at Mozambique
 in The Adventures of Vasco da Gama

Vasco visits the King of Melinda
 in The Adventures of Vasco da Gama

Behold Captain! The Land of India'
 in The Adventures of Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama taken prisoner
 in The Adventures of Vasco da Gama

The attack on the Goa Boats
 in The Adventures of Vasco da Gama

Short Biography
Bartholomew Diaz Discovered Cape of Good Hope at the southernmost point of Africa.
Paulo da Gama Brother of Vasco da Gama, and captain of one of his ships. Died on the Journey.
Nicolau Coelho Commanded one of the ships on Vasco da Gama's famous journey to India.
Francisco de Almeida Portuguese general who served in the wars against Granada, and was appointed the first governor of Portuguese India.
Alfonso de Albuquerque Portuguese commander who won numerous naval conflicts in Asia and helped establish a colony in India at Goa.
Emanuel I of Portugal King of Portugal during years of Portuguese conquest of the Far East.
Christopher Columbus Genoan sailor, sponsored by Isabela of Spain, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and discovered the Americas.