VASCO DA GAMA
E have seen that Portugal missed the honour of sending out Columbus,
although the people of that age scarcely realized that it was an
honour. Six years after he crossed the Atlantic Ocean, a
Portuguese sailor named Vasco da Gama made a voyage that
was looked upon as being of far more importance, because it
opened the way for trade with the far East for which
merchants had been longing. He reached India by sailing around
Africa. Navigators were already familiar with the western
coast of Africa, and a few years earlier one of them had doubled
the Cape of Good Hope; but of what lay beyond little
Vasco da Gama, therefore, had been chosen by the king of
Portugal to sail down the western coast, round the Cape of Good
Hope, and then sail north up the eastern coast. When the day
of departure had come, Da Gama and the men of the fleet and
the courtiers all went down to the water's edge. The ships
were ablaze with flags and standards. A farewell salute was
fired, and the vessels floated down the river of
Lisbon and out into the open sea.
On the voyage there were tempests and stormy winds, and the sea
was rough day and night. When at last
 they thought that they
must have sailed as far south as the southern point of
Africa, they steered directly east. Alas, the shore soon came
in sight. "There is no end to the land," declared the
sailors, "it goes straight across the ocean." "Stand out to
sea," commanded Da Gama. "Trust in the Lord, and we will
double the Cape." On they went. The days grew shorter, the
nights grew longer, and the cold rains fell constantly. Now
the ships began to leak, and the men could never cease pumping.
There was so little hope of safety that they no longer
called upon God to save their lives, but begged Him to have
mercy upon their souls. In the midst of all the distress, Da
Gama strode about the ship, angry and fearless. "If we do not
double the Cape this time," he declared, "we will stand
out to sea again; and we will stand out as many times until
the Cape is doubled, or until whatever may please God has
come to pass."
By and by the sea grew calm, the wind moderated, and, however
far they went to the east, no land was in sight. Then they
knew that they had doubled the Cape. They were full of joy,
and they praised the Lord, who had delivered them from
The Christmas season was at hand, which the Portuguese call
Natal. They gave this name to the part of the coast
off which they lay, and it has been so called ever since that
time. After the shattered vessels had been repaired, Da
Gama sailed onward up
the coast of Africa as far as Melinda. There he
found a native pilot who guided his ships across the Indian
Ocean to Calicut, in Hindustan. After many
adventures he returned to Portugal. The king gave him
generous rewards, made him a noble, and bade that holidays
should be celebrated in his honor throughout the kingdom.
 Da Gama made two other voyages to India. On one of these he
led a fleet of twelve ships and brought them back richly
laden with spices and silks and ivory and precious stones.
Finally he was made viceroy of India; and there he lived in
much luxury and magnificence until his death.
For a time, the voyages of Columbus were almost forgotten.
Vasco da Gama had found the way to India, and several
countries of Europe, especially Portugal, were becoming rich
by their trade with the East. What more could be asked?