In 1497, Vasco da Gama, a young Portuguese sea captain, was summoned to the court of King Manuel I. The king informed him that, as one of the most notable navigators of his day, he had been chosen to lead an expedition in an attempt to find a sea route from Portugal to the Indies, round the southern tip of Africa, he was given a flotilla of four vessels, one of which was commanded by his brother, Paolo.
Four months after leaving Lisbon, on 22 November, despite hurricanes and mutinies, the ships rounded the Cape of Good Hope. Da Gama, in his flagship the San Gabriel, led the small fleet farther north along the African coast than any other European had ever ventured before. After calling at Mozambique and Mombasa, he sailed north-east across the Arabian Gulf, with a Hindu pilot on board. Three weeks later the ships reached Calicut in India. Da Gama’s voyage proved more immediately valuable to the world than Columbus’s discoveries in the New World, for it opened up a trade route by which the great riches of the East could be carried by sea to Europe.