Famous Personalities of India : Vasco Da Gama - Part I
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Da Gama, Vasco (1469-1524), was a Portuguese sea captain and explorer. He commanded the first fleet to reach India from Europe. Da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to India in the late 1490's. His voyage opened the first all-water trade route between Europe and Asia.

Da Gama was born in Sines, Portugal. He probably attended school in the town of Evora. As a young man, Vasco learned astronomy and navigation. Da Gama became a naval officer in 1492 and commanded ships along the coast of Portugal.

Another Portuguese sea captain, Bartolomeu Dias, had discovered a route around the southern tip of Africa in 1488. He had sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. In 1497, King Manuel I of Portugal asked da Gama to find a sea route to India by sailing around Africa. The king wanted da Gama to establish trading links between Portugal and India. Da Gama's father had been chosen to lead the expedition, but he died before the plans were completed.

Da Gama commanded four ships, including the Berrio, the Saint Gabriel, and the Saint Raphael. He had a total crew of about 170 men. His navigational equipment included compasses, an astronomical instrument called an astrolabe, and astronomical charts.

Da Gama sailed from Lisbon, Portugal, on July 8, 1497. He rounded the Cape of Good Hope on November 22, headed north, and stopped at trading centres that are now Mocambique, Mozambique; and Mombasa and Malindi, Kenya. Arab traders in Mocambique and Mombasa hated the Portuguese and tried to seize their ships. The people at Malindi were friendlier and arranged for a guide to lead the fleet to India.

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