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The Achievements of Vasco da Gama: 13 Facts – Part 1

By Yona Williams    12/20/08

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When it comes to Portuguese explorers, does Vasco da Gama (~1460-1524) ring a bell? This man discovered an ocean route from Portugal to the East; and participated in many journeys on the sea. In the end, Vasco da Gama earned the title of one of the most successful in the European Age of Discovery. He also took the position of commander of the first ships to voyage directly from Europe to India. In this article, you will find 13 facts regarding the life and achievements of Vasco da Gama.

1) At the time of Vasco da Gama's main achievements, the public thought that it was nearly impossible to sail where he ventured because they believed that the Indian Ocean did not possess a connection to any other bodies of water of its kind.

2) Da Gama's patron was King Manuel I of Portugal. He sent de Gama on an expedition to India (between 1502 and 1503) when he held the position of Admiral. After the King's death, King John III took the place of directing de Gama on his next exploits, including another adventure to India. De Gama was put into the position of Portuguese viceroy (the King's representative in India) under the new King's rule.

3) It is believed that da Gama was born in either 1460 or 1469 on the southwest coast of Portugal. Some say that he was born in a house located close to the church of Nossa Senhora das Salas. His hometown of Sines was one of the few seaports situated on the Alentejo coast, which was mostly inhabited by fishermen and cottages furnished with red tile.

4) Vasco da Gama's father was named Estevao de Gama and during the 1460s, he served as a knight in the household of the Duke of Viseu, Dom Fernando. Over time, his father was appointed to the position of Alcaide-Mor or Civil Governor of Sines, which allowed him to earn a minimal revenue from the taxes associated with soap making in Estremoz.

5) da Gama's mother was Dona Isabel Sodre – the daughter of Joao Sodre. This side of the family was of English descent. The bloodline also included links to the household of Prince Diogo.

6) In 1492, King John II of Portugal sent Gama to the port of Setubal (located south of Lisbon). Another mission was also to travel to Algarve to lay claim to French ships as part of a retaliation assignment. Da Gama was successful in performing this task and completed quite fast as well.

7) da Gama's first voyage took place on July 8th, 1497 with a fleet that consisted of four ships and a crew of 170 men. When he left Lisbon, he traveled with the following vessels: The Sao Gabrie (commanded by Vasco da Gama); the Sao Rafael (commanded by his brother Paulo da Gama); the caravel Berrio (commanded by Nicolau Coelho); and an unnamed storage ship (commanded by Gonçalo Nunes). Later on, the storage ship lost its way close to the Bay of Sao Bras – about the east coast of Africa.



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