21 Dec 1996 - 23 Oct 2009
Topical Philately Gallery - History on the Sea
Vasco da Gama
Portuguese navigator (1469-1524). Descendant of a noble family, Vasco da Gama adopted a seafaring life at an early age, gaining his first experience in various Portuguese expeditions along the west coast of Africa and giving such good proof of his capacity that he was given command of an expedition to India. In July 1497, with the three vessels San Gabriel, San Raphael
and Berrio (a freighter loaded with equipment), he sailed from Lisbon. The crew consisted of 170 men, including his elder brother Paolo to whom was entrusted command of San Raphael. Vasco himself commanded San Gabriel, a vessel of 120 tons and the largest of the expedition. The enterprise was financed by the florentine merchant family og Sergini, and the fleet had been fitted out under the supervision of Bartolomeu Dias, discoverer of the Cape. The ships doubled the Cape of Good Hope on November 22nd on the Christmas Day anchored off the coast of what they called Natal in honour of the event. Continuing the voyage, Vasco da Gama met with hostility from the Arabs who frequented the coasts of what are now Mozambique and Kenya and who feared European penetration of what they regarded as their commercial preserve. Nevertheless the voyage was continued, with the help of a Gurejat seaman, the most celebrated Asian navigator of his day. Crossing the Indian Ocean, the expedition reached the port of Calicut on the Malabar coast on May 20th 1498. On the return voyage ships put in to Mogadishu on the Somali coast and the to Malindi on the coast of Kenya. On May 20th 1499 the Cape of Good Hope was once more rounded. The expedition followed the West African coast and reached the Azores archipelago, where Paolo died. A magnificent reception awaited Vasco da Gama on his return to Lisbon and among other honours hewas appointed Grand Admiral by the King of Portugal. In 1502 Vasco da Gama was charged with another expedition to the Indies. in which he followed his previous route and founded a colony at Cochin on the Malabar coast. For this further service he was invested with the title of Count. In 1524, in view of the difficulty position of the Portuguese in India, John III of Portugal again turned to him, giving him command of a naval expedition to India. But after successfully restoring Portuguese pretige at Calicut, he died at Cochin. Though Vasco da Gama apparently did not leave any account by his own hand, concerning his voyages, he may be considered to have laid by them the foundations of Portuguese colonial success. His expeditions to India robbed Venice of its monopoly of trade with Asia, a monopoly that in great part passed to Portugal. In the history of the exploration he had opened the maritime route from western World to India and the East.