Vasco da Gama


Born: 1460 or 1469 in Sines or Vidigueira, Alentejo, Kingdom of Portugal
Died: Dec 23, 1524 (at age 55-65) in Kochim, Portuguese India
Nationality: Portuguese
Occupation: Explorer, Viceroy of India
Famous For: Leading sails from Europe to India

Famous explorer Vasco da Gama was born in Sines, Portugal around 1460. The King commissioned him in 1497 to find a maritime-route to the East of the country. His breakthrough proved to be among the most instrumental highlights in navigation history.

Early Life

Explorer Vasco da Gama was born into a noble and humble family. He was the third son of his father Estevao da Gama, a fortress commander in his hometown. He was known to be a fearless and tough young man.

Contribution to Navigation

Once he was older, Vasco da Gama joined the Portuguese navy where he learned to navigate. He established himself as a sailor by 1492 when King John II dispatched him to south Lisbon. He was then again dispatched to the Algarve region of Portugal to seize ships from France. This was done as a sign of revenge against the French for disrupting their shipping before.

The idea of exploring the farther parts of the world were not a new concept to da Gama since his father was also an explorer.

First Voyage

He started on his first voyage in 1487 from Lisbon, Portugal to India. The main reason India was a popular merchant route was because of its spices. Vasco da Gama used the naval route south of Africa, passing through Mombasa and the Cape of Good Hope.

He finally reached Southern India in 1498. He then returned back after successful trade exchanges in 1499. This navigation led to a direct route from the European continent to India.

Second Voyage

The Portuguese King Manuel I sent da Gama, then an admiral, on a second expedition to India between 1502 and 1503. On his second trip, Vasco da Gama took with him 20 armed ships. Vasco da Gama was the main force in subduing lots of uprisings, mostly with the Muslim traders, who carried out their trade in Africa.

This second voyage saw the killing of several Muslims, who were often murdered brutally as a way of demonstrating the King’s power. The Muslims traders felt that the Portuguese had jeopardized their route because of the many entries of European ships into their waters. This was the main cause of the conflicts.


In 1524, da Gama was asked to undertake yet another voyage to India, this time, as a viceroy and ambassador of King John III. However, this journey proved to be very unfortunate as da Gama died from malaria. His remains were sent back to his homeland in 1539.