All cried out to God for mercy upon their souls, for now they no longer took heed of their lives. It now seemed to Vasco da Gama that the time was come for making another tack.
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: Atlantic Ocean, west of Africa
Paulo da Gama, as he went out with the Lisbon river, hauled down the royal standard from the masthead; but at the great supplications of his brother, who gave him good reasons why it was fitting that he should carry it, he again hoisted it. The two companions, standing out to sea, as I have said, made their way toward Cape Verde, and for that purpose they stood well out to sea to make the coast, which they knew they would find, as it advanced much to seaward, as they learned from the sailors who had been in the caravels of Janinfante. They ran as far as they could to sea in the direction of the wind, to double the land without difficulty; and thus, they navigated until they made the coast, and, having reconnoitered it, they tacked and stood out to sea, hauling on the bowline as much as they could, as so they ran for many days.
And as it seemed to them that now they could double the land, they again tacked toward the coast, also on the bowline, against the wind, until they again saw the coast, much farther on than where the caravels had reached, which the masters knew from the soundings which they got written down from the voyage of Janinfante, and the days which they found to have less sun by the clocks. Having well ascertained this, they stood out again to sea; thus, forcing the ships to windward, they went so far out to the sea toward the south that there was almost not six hours of sunlight in the day; and the wind was very powerful, so that the sea was very fearful to see, without ever being smooth either by day or night, but they always met with storms, so that the crews suffered much hardship. After a month that they had run on this tack, they stood into shore and went as long as they could, all praying to the Lord that they might have doubled beyond the land; but when they again saw it they were very sad, though they found themselves much advanced by the signs of the soundings which the pilots took, and they saw land of another shape which they had not before seen.
Seeing that the coast ran out to sea, the masters and pilots were in great confusion, and doubtful of standing out again to sea, saying that the land went across the sea and had no end to it. This being heard of by Vasco da Gama — according, as it was presumed, to the information he had from the Jew Zacuto — he told the pilots that they should not imagine such a thing, and that without doubt they would find the end of that land, and beyond it much sea and lands to run by, and he said to them: “I assure you that the cape is very near, and, with another tack standing out to sea, when you return you will find the cape doubled.” This Vasco da Gama said to encourage them, because he saw that they were much disheartened, and with the inclination to wish to put back to Portugal. So he ordered them to put the ships about to sea, which they did, much against their will; for which reason Vasco da Gama determined to stand on this tack so long as to be able to double the end of the land, and besought all not to take account of their labors, since for that purpose they had ventured upon them; and that they should put their trust in the Lord that they would double the cape.
Thus, he gave them great encouragement, without ever sleeping or taking repose, but always taking part with them in hardship, coming up at the boatswain’s pipe as they all did. So, they went on standing out to sea till they found it all broken up with the storm, with enormous waves and darkness. As the days were very short, it always seemed night; the masts and shrouds were stayed, because with the fury of the sea the ships seemed every moment to be going to pieces. The crews grew sick with fear and hardship, because also they could not prepare their food, and all clamored for putting back to Portugal, and that they did not choose to die like stupid people who sought death with their own hands; thus, they made clamor and lamentation, of which there was much more in other ships. But the captains excused themselves, saying that they would do nothing except what Vasco da Gama did; and he and his companions underwent great labor.
As he was a very choleric man, at times with angry words he made them be silent, although he well saw how much reason they had at every moment to despair of their lives; and they had been going for about two months on that tack, and the masters and pilots cried out to him to take another tack; but the captain-major did not choose, though the ships were now letting in much water, by which their labors were doubled, because the days were short and the nights long, which caused them increased fear of death; and at this time they met with such cold rains that the men could not move. All cried out to God for mercy upon their souls, for now they no longer took heed of their lives. It now seemed to Vasco da Gama that the time was come for making another tack, and he comforted himself very angrily, swearing that if they did not double the cape he would stand out to sea again as many times until the cape was doubled, or there should happen whatever should please God. For which reason, from fear of this, the masters took much more trouble to advance as much as they could; and they took more heart on nearing the land, and escaping from the tempest of the sea; and all called upon God for mercy, and to give them guidance, when they saw themselves out of such great dangers.
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