Gama’s fleet left Calicut in late August 1498, “greatly rejoicing at our good fortune in having made so great a discovery… having agreed that, inasmuch that we had discovered the country we had come in search of, as also spices and precious stones, and it appeared impossible to establish cordial relations with the people, it would be as well to take our departure.” After contrary winds, obstruction by the Muslim rulers en route, and the curse of scurvy, which decimated the crew, finally two of Gama’s four ships, the square-rigged San Gabriel and the caravel Berrio, made a triumphal entry into Lisbon in mid-September 1499. Of the crew of 170 who went out, only 55 lived to return.

Not many heroes of discovery have the good luck themselves to enjoy the fruits of their discovery. Vasco da Gama was one. His voyage, which finally proved a feasible sea route between West and East, changed the course of both Western and Eastern history. In February 1502 he set out again from Lisbon, this time with a Portuguese squadron to make Calicut into a Portuguese colony. […]

“The Portuguese Discoverers”, from “The Discoverers”, Daniel J. Boorstin, The National Board for the Celebration of Portuguese Discoveries, Lisbon, 1987