When they had finished dining, Vasco da Gama ordered Nicolas Coelho to go in his boat up the river to see if he found any village.
Continuing Vasco Da Gama Sails Around Africa and Opens the Sea Route To India,
our selection from The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama: and His Viceroyalty by Gaspar Correa published in 1556. The selection is presented in ten easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Vasco Da Gama Sails Around Africa and Opens the Sea Route To India.
Place: West coast of Africa
Thus, approaching the land, they found their labor less and the seas calmer, so they went on running for a long time, steering so as to make the land and to ease the ships, which they were better able to do at night when the captain slept, which the other ships did also, as they followed the lantern which Vasco da Gama carried; at night, the ships showed lights to one another so as not to part company. Seeing how much they had run, and did not find the land, they sailed larger so as to make it; and as they did not find it, and as the sea and wind were moderate, they knew they had doubled the cape; on which great joy fell among them, and they gave great praise to the Lord on seeing themselves delivered from death. The pilots continued to sail more free, spreading all the sails; and, running in this manner, one morning they sighted some mountain peaks which seemed to touch the clouds; at which their pleasure was so great that all wept with joy, and all devoutly on their knees said the Salve. After running all day till night, they were not able to reach it, and discovered great mountain ridges; so, as it was night, they ran along the coast, which lay from east to west; and they took in all the sails, only running under large sails, for these were the orders of the captain-major.
The next day at dawn they again set all the sails and ran to the land, so that at midday they saw a beach which was all rocky, and, running along it, they saw deep creeks, and such large bays that they could not see the land at the end of them; they also found the mouths of great rivers, from which water came forth to the sea with a powerful current; here also, near the land, they found many fish, which they killed with fish-spears. The watchmen in the tops were always on the lookout to see if there were shoals ahead. The crews grew sick with fever from the fish which they ate, on which account they ate no more. The pilots, on heaving the lead, found no bottom; so, they ran on for three days, and at night they kept away from the land and shortened sail.
Sailing in this manner, they fell in with the mouth of a large river, and the captain-major ordered a boat to be lowered, and the pilot to sound the entrance of the river; and he said it was superfluous, because if there was a shoal it would be burst through. Then they took in the sails, excepting the great one with which they entered the river, which was very large; and they went up it, the boat going before and sounding, and, approaching land, where they found twelve fathoms, they anchored. There they found very good fish, for the river was of fresh water; but in the whole of the river they found no beach, for there was nothing but rocks and crags. Then Vasco da Gama went to see his brother, and so did Nicolas Coelho, and they all dined with great satisfaction, talking of the hardships they had gone through.
When they had finished dining, Vasco da Gama ordered Nicolas Coelho to go in his boat up the river to see if he found any village. He went up more than five leagues, without finding anything besides many streams which came from between the mountains to pour into the river; there were no woods in the country, nothing but stones on both sides of the river; upon which he returned to the captain-major. Then the following day, before the morning, Vasco da Gama again ordered Nicolas Coelho to go in a boat with sails and oars, and with provisions to eat, and told him to go as far as the head of the river, to see if he could find anyone to speak to, to learn what country they were in. He went up the river a distance of more than twenty leagues, and returned without having found anything.
Then they decided on going out again, and they took in water and wood of the dry trees, which it seems the river brings down when it comes from the mountain. On that account, the captain-major wished himself in person to discover the river up to its head, to see whence could come those trees which they found there dry, but the masters said this would be a labor without profit, and that they ought to go out of the river and make for the country which they wished to seek, and they would find it. This seemed good to the captain-major, and they came out of the river, with much labor, as the wind was contrary and entered the mouth of the river. The strong current of the river, which went out to sea, alone assisted them, and with it they went outside without sails, only towing with the boats which guided them.
When the ships returned to sea they ran along the coast with great precaution, and a good lookout not to run upon any shoals, and they entered other great rivers and bays; and they explored everywhere and searched without ever being able to meet with people, nor boats in the seas, for all the country was uninhabited; and in entering and leaving the rivers they endured much fatigue, and were much vexed at not being able to learn in what country they were. With these detentions and delays they wasted much time, and spent all the summer of that country, so they had to run along the coast because winds were favorable for going ahead, for they were westerly. And because they found everything desolate, without people by land or sea, they agreed unanimously not to enter any more rivers, but to run ahead, and thus they did; for by day they ran under full sail, drawing so near to the land as possible to see if they could make out any village or beach, which as yet they had not seen; and by night they stood away to sea and ran under shortened sail. Navigating in this manner, the wind began to moderate, and fell calm altogether, which happened in November, when they had to struggle with another wind, with which they stood out to sea, fearing some contrary storm might arise; then, taking in all sail, they lay waiting for the springing up of another wind, so they went increasing their distance from the land till they lost sight of it; for the wind increased continually, and the sea rose greatly, for then the winter of that country was setting in.
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