*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Five months after leaving Lisbon, Vasco da Gama made a turn that ensured European trade and the Indian subcontinent would never be the same. As he directed his fleet east around the Cape of Good Hope on December 16, 1497, he and his crew entered the history books as the first of many expeditions to sail along the eastern coast of Africa for a journey across the Indian Ocean.
Determined to push beyond the limits set by countryman Bartolomeu Dias, da Gama gathered 170 Portuguese sailors for a roundtrip to India in early July 1497. Hand-picking the best crew he could, da Gama secured the services of the most accomplished navigators his homeland had to offer, placing one each onto the four ships under his command. Leaving on July 8th, the group started off sailing along established trade routes before plotting a course for the open ocean in the first week of August.
When da Gama’s four ships reached southwestern Africa on November 4th, they had traveled farther over the water without a land mass to guide them than any European voyage up to that point — well over 6,000 miles. Six weeks later, on December 16, 1497, the crew pushed past modern Eastern Cape, South Africa and turned north along the eastern coast of the continent. Down to three ships, the Portuguese explorers pressed forward with little in the way of goods to trade with whomever they might encounter. …(Read more)