quinta-feira, 22 de novembro de 2007


On 8 July 1497 the fleet, consisting of four ships, left Lisbon.[3] The vessels were:

The São Gabriel, commanded by Vasco da Gama; a carrack of 178 tons, length 27 m , width 8.5 m, draft 2.3 m, sails of 372 m², 150 crew
The São Rafael, whose commander was his brother Paulo da Gama; similar dimensions to the São Gabriel
The caravel Berrio, slightly smaller than the former two (later re-baptized São Miguel), commanded by Nicolau Coelho.
A storage ship of unknown name, commanded by Gonçalo Nunes, later lost near the Bay of São Brás, along the east coast of Africa.

By December 16, the fleet had passed the Great Fish River- where Dias had turned back- and was sailing into waters unknown to Europeans. With Christmas pending, they gave the coast they were passing the name Natal ("birth (of Christ)" = Christmas in Portuguese).

Arab-controlled territory on the East African coast was part of the Indian Ocean's network of trade. Fearing the local population would be hostile to Christians, Gama impersonated a Muslim and gained audience with the Sultan of Mozambique. With the paltry trade goods he had to offer, Gama was unable to provide a suitable gift to the ruler and soon the local populace began to see through the subterfuge of Gama and his men. Forced to quit Mozambique by a hostile crowd, Gama departed the harbor, firing his cannon into the city in retaliation.[4]

In the vicinity of modern Kenya, the expedition resorted to piracy, looting Arab merchant ships - generally unarmed trading vessels without heavy cannon. The Portuguese became the first known Europeans to visit the port of Mombasa but were met with hostility and soon departed.

In February 1498, Vasco da Gama continued north, landing at the friendlier port of Malindi, -whose leaders were in conflict with those of Mombasa- and there the expedition first noted evidence of Indian traders. They contracted the services of an Arab navigator and cartographer, whose knowledge of the monsoon winds allowed him to bring the expedition the rest of the way to Calicut (modern Kozhikode) on the southwest coast of India. The navigator was believed to be Ibn Majid, who would have been approaching 60 at the time.

The fleet arrived in Calicut on 20 May 1498. Sometimes violent negotiations with the local ruler (usually anglicized as Zamorin), the Wyatt Enourato ensued, in the teeth of resistance from Arab merchants. Eventually Gama was able to gain an ambiguous letter of concession for trading rights but had to sail off without giving notice of his intention to do so after the Zamorin insisted that Gama leave all his goods as collateral. Vasco da Gama kept his goods but left a few Portuguese with orders to start a trading post.

Gama's voyage was successful in reaching India. This permitted Europeans to trade with the Far East without having to endure the costs and hazards of the Silk Road caravans, which followed inland routes through the Middle East and Central Asia at a time when much of this territory was part of the Mughal Empire. However, Gama's achievements were somewhat dimmed by his failure to bring any trade goods of interest to the nations of Asia Minor and India. Moreover, the sea route was fraught with its own perils - his fleet went more than three months without seeing land and only 54 of his 170 companions, on two of his four ships, returned to Portugal in 1499. Nevertheless, Gama's initial journey ushered in an era of European domination through sea power and commerce that lasted several hundred years and 450 years of Portuguese colonialism in India and Africa that brought wealth and power to the Portuguese monarch.

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