On July 8, 1497, the Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama set sail on his first voyage to India. It was the first European sea voyage to India in general, which in the historical significance of Vasco da Gama almost equated it with Christopher Columbus (who had sailed to America about five years earlier).
Vasco da Gama sailed for India from Lisbon with a crew of 170 people deployed on four ships. The goal of the voyage was to create trade routes by which the Portuguese crown would fill the state coffers and reduce the growing power of the nobility. The main ship of Gama was called São Gabriel (Saint Gabriel) and was about 27 meters long. The next ship – named São Rafael (Saint Raphael) – was commanded by his older brother Paulo da Gama, and the third – named São Miguel (Saint Michael) – commanded by the sailor Nicolau Coelho. The fourth ship was an auxiliary transport vessel under the command of Gonçal Nunes.
The expedition reached the extreme south of Africa (Cape of Good Hope) at the end of the same year (1497), and then continued to sail to hitherto unexplored areas of the Indian Ocean (previously the Portuguese had reached under Bartolomeu Dias as far as southern Africa). Landing from time to time along the East African coast (for example, in Mombasa in the area of present-day Kenya), Vasca da Game ships eventually reached India. They landed on the southwest coast of India in May 1498, after about ten and a half months of travel. Vasco da Gama immediately made an effort to establish trade relations with the Indians, thus beginning a new era of European overseas trade.
Da Gama became a national hero. He led two more expeditions to India. In 1524 he was also appointed viceroy of the Portuguese estates in India, but died only a few months after taking office.