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Vasco da Gama

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Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama (1460 or 1469?-December 24, 1524) was a Portuguese sailor. He was the first European who went to India through the Cape of Good Hope, the southern end of Africa. He went to India three times by ship.

He was born in Sines, Portugal. His exact date of birth is unknown. According to some people's accounts, he was a knight in the 1490s at Sines.

On July 8, 1497 he left Lisbon with four ships: the São Gabriel, the São Rafael, the Berrio, and a storage ship of unknown name. He intended that his ships sail to India. No European explorer before him had sailed further than the place that is now called South Africa. Vasco da Gama sailed around the bottom of the African continent. Da Gama's crew gave the South African coast they were passing the name Natal, a word which means "Christmas" in Portuguese. They did this because they sailed near to that coast at at the same time they celebrated Christmas. The coast they named is still called Natal. By January, Da Gama's crew had reached modern-day Mozambique, on the East African coast. Mozambique was controlled by Arabs because it was part of the Indian Ocean's network of trade. An angry crowd discovered that da Gama's men were not Muslims, so the crew continued north to Kenya. There, at Malindi, da Gama hired a pilot from India. The pilot brought the Portuguese men to the city of Calicut on the southwest coast of India on May 20, 1498. Vasco da Gama was in danger because of a conflict with the ruler of Calicut. However, he escaped and returned to Portugal in September 1499. A few of his Portuguese sailors stayed in Calicut.

Vasco da Gama went on his next trip in 1502, after he found out that the people of Calicut had killed the Portuguese he had left behind. During this trip, he attacked and stole from all the Arab and Indian ships he found in the Indian Ocean. Then he went on to Calicut and took over that city and captured much wealth. This made the King of Portugal very happy with him.

Vasco da Gama went on one last trip in 1524, to be the viceroy (governor) of Calicut, which was now a Portuguese colony. He he died soon after he got there on Christmas Eve.

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