Vasco da Gama was born about 1460 at Sines, Portugal. Both Prince John and Prince
Manuel continued the efforts of Prince Henry to find a sea route to India, and in 1497
Manuel placed Vasco da Gama, who already had some reputation as a warrior and
navigator, in charge of four vessels built especially for the expedition. They set sail July
8, 1497, rounded the Cape of Good Hope four months later, and reached Calicut May
20, 1498. The Moors in Calicut instigated the Zamorin of Calicut against him, and he
was compelled to return with the bare discovery and the few spices he had bought there
at inflated prices [but he still made a 3,000% profit!]. A force left by a second expedition
under Cabral (who discovered Brazil by sailing too far west), left behind some men in a
"factory" or trading station, but these were killed by the Moors in revenge for Cabral's
attacks on Arab shipping in the Indian Ocean. Vasco da Gama was sent on a mission of
vengeance in 1502, he bombarded Calicut (virtually destroying the port), and returned
with great spoil. His expedition turned the commerce of Europe from the Mediterranean
cities to the Atlantic Coast, and opened up the east to European enterprise.
The Bay of St. Helena [on the west coast of the present country of South Africa]. On
Tuesday (November 7) we returned to the land, which we found to be low, with a broad
bay opening into it. The captain-major [i.e., da Gama speaking in the third person] sent
Pero d'Alenquer in a boat to take soundings and to search for good anchoring ground.
The bay was found to be very clean, and to afford shelter against all winds except those
from the N.W. It extended east and west, and we named it Santa Helena.
On Wednesday (November 8) we cast anchor in this bay, and we remained there eight
days, cleaning the ships, mending the sails, and taking in wood. The river Samtiagua (S.
Thiago) enters the bay four leagues to the S.E. of the anchorage. It comes from the
interior (sertao), is about a stone's throw across at the mouth, and from two to three
fathoms in depth at all states of the tide.
The inhabitants of this country are tawny-colored. Their food is confined to the flesh of
seals, whales and gazelles, and the roots of herbs. They are dressed in skins, and wear
sheaths over their virile members. They are armed with poles of olive wood to which a
horn, browned in the fire, is attached. Their numerous dogs resemble those of Portugal,
and bark like them. The birds of the country, likewise, are the same as in Portugal, and
include cormorants, gulls, turtle doves, crested larks, and many others. The climate is
healthy and temperate, and produces good herbage. On the day after we had cast anchor,
that is to say on Thursday (November 9), we landed with the captain-major, and made
captive one of the natives, who was small of stature like Sancho Mexia. This man had
been gathering honey in the sandy waste, for in this country the bees deposit their honey
at the foot of the mounds around the bushes. He was taken on board the captain-major's