Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/61

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from Lisbon to India was by far the greatest feat of seamanship ever attempted; even its first portion, the voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, which it was proposed to make as directly as possible from the Cape Verde Islands across the open ocean, avoiding the circuitous route by the Guinea coast and the mouth of the Congo, was a far greater undertaking than the voyage of Colombo. The discoverer of America had but to sail 86 days, with a fair wind, to traverse the 2,600 miles between Gomera and the Bahamas. The distance from the Cape Verde Islands to the Cape was 3,770 miles. It was impossible to make the voyage by great-circle sailing. Contrary winds and currents made it necessary to shape a course curving to the extent of almost half a circle, the direct line forming the chord of the arc; and 93 days elapsed after Da Gama had left the Cape Verde Islands before he reached the coast of South Africa. Leaving Lisbon on July 8, 1497, and the Island of Santiago, the southernmost of the Cape Verde group, on August 3, he first sighted land on November 4>, and on the 8th anchored in the bay of St Helena, in the land of the Hottentots, where he remained eight days, careening his ships and taking in wood. Quitting his anchorage on the 16th, he doubled the Cape on the 22nd, and three days later reached Mossel Bay, where he remained thirteen days. Resuming his course on December 8, he eight days afterwards passed the mouth of the Great Fish river, the last point reached by Diaz, and was now in waters never before traversed by European vessels. Struggling against the Agulhas current, which had baffled his predecessor, he on Christmas Day reached the roadstead which from that circumstance obtained the name of Port Natal. After making halts in the bay of Lourenco Marques, and at the mouth of the Kiliman river, Da Gama once more stood out to sea, and on March 2, 1498, anchored in the roadstead of Mozambique. He had now effected the desired junction of the West with the East; for the Mohammadan population here spoke the Arabic language, and through his own interpreters he could freely communicate with them.

From this point Da Gama's task was easy. He had entered a field of navigation known in all its parts from remote times, and familiar ground to resident Mohammadan seamen and traders, who received him amicably and furnished him with pilots. From Mozambique he proceeded to Mombasa, where he fell in with non-Mohammadan residents, supposed by him to be Christians, but in reality Banyans of India. A still larger "Christian" population of the same nation was found in the port of Malindi. Here the adventurers were furnished with a " Christian" pilot, who conducted them safely across the Indian Ocean to Calicut, off which place Da Gama anchored on May 20, ten months and twelve days after leaving Lisbon. Calicut was the great emporium of Arab trade. It was the chief among the many ports ot the Malabar coast, whence Europe drew its supplies of pepper and