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The Incredible Journey of Vasco da Gama

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By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

On July 8, 1497, under the banner of the Order of Christ, Da Gama and his crew consisting of 170 members walked to their newly built ships. They were heavily armed with cannons, pikes and spears. Da Gama expected trouble on the way.

At Sierra Leone, he decided to steer his ships southwest until he was closer to Brazil than to Africa. The winds carried him back to Africa and close to the Cape of Good Hope. After that, this route was regularly used by every vessel headed to the Cape. Da Gama sailed his fleet up the east coast of Africa. He encountered some trouble at Mozambique and at Mombasa where the local authority attempted to take his life and that of his crew. Naturally, he decided to press on to Malindi (southwest Kenya) where he met a pilot who would guide them across the Indian Ocean.

On May 20, 1498, the shipmen were thrilled to drop anchor off Calicut, India. The Hindu zamorin was apparently drowning in wealth. Da Gama greeted him cordially and explained his mission. After some initial hesitation, the zamorin agreed to trade with the king of Portugal.

They returned to Lisbon on September, 8, 1499. Soon, King Manuel organized more naval missions. The next expedition was led by Pedro Álvares Cabral, who left his crew in Calicut to protect the Portuguese interests. The spice merchants, however, did not like this interference and as a result half of the crew lost their lives during the attack of the armed mob. When Da Gama came back to India, he retaliated by burning the ship returning from Mecca killing men, women and children. He showed no mercy.

The Portuguese went on to become the dominant power in the Indian Ocean. They led expeditions to Japan, China, Malacca and the Spice Islands (the Moluccas). They believed it was their mission to exact vengeance on the people who were “outside the law of Christ” and they had no calms about using violence whenever they thought it necessary. Such actions naturally resulted in resentment of Christianity in Asia.

Da Gama's accomplishments widened the sea route between the two continents. New era of exploration began. The peoples in the area could not escape European social, religious or technical influence. Likewise, at least to a degree, Eastern ideas began to have greater influence in Europe. This exchange of ideas increased awareness of the huge diversity of human culture. For better or for worse, the modern world still feels the effects of the incredible journey undertaken by this courageous Portuguese adventurer and explorer.





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