Brothers, let us strive to save ourselves from this storm, for I promise you that as soon as I can get speech with the captain-major I will require him to put back, and you will see how I will require it of him.”
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
While they were at this point, a sudden wind arose, with so great a concussion of thunder and darkness, and a stronger blast than they had yet experienced, and the sea rose so much that the ships could not see one another, except when they were upheaved by the seas, when they seemed to be among the clouds. They hung out lights so as not to part company, for the anxiety and fear which the captain-major felt was the losing one of the ships from his company, so that the seamen would put back to Portugal by force, as, indeed, they had very much such a desire in their hearts.
But the captains took very great care of this, because Vasco da Gama, before going out to Lisbon, when conversing alone with the Jew Zacuto in the monastery, had received from him much information as to what he should do during his voyage, and especially recommendations of great watchfulness never to let the ships part company, because if they separated it would be the certain destruction of all of them.
Vasco da Gama took great care of this, personally, and by means of his servants and relations in whom he trusted; and this they attended to with much greater solicitude after they heard the sailors say that they were many, and the captains only a few single men, and in fact they had in their minds such an intention of rising up against the captains, and by force putting back to Portugal, and they thought that, if it became necessary to arrest them for this and bring them before the King, he would have mercy upon them, and, should they not find mercy, they preferred rather to die there where their wives and children and fathers were, and in their native country, and not in the sea to be eat by the fishes. With such thoughts, they all spoke to one another secretly, determining to carry it out, and trusting that the King would not hang them all for the good reasons which they would give him; or else to secure their lives they would go to Castile until they were pardoned. This was the greatest insolence they were guilty of; and so, they decided upon executing their plan. In taking this decision they did not perceive the danger of death, into which they were going more than ever.
In the ship of Nicolas Coelho there was a sailor who had a brother who lived with Nicolas Coelho, and was foster-brother of a son of his; and the sailor brother told this boy of what they had all determined to do. This boy, being very discreet, said to his brother that they should all preserve great secrecy, so as not to be found out, for it was a case of treason, and he warned his brother not to tell anyone that he had mentioned such a thing to him. The boy, on account of the affection which he had for his master Nicolas Coelho, discovered the matter to him in secret, and he at once gave the boy a serious warning to be very discreet in this matter, that they should not perceive that he had told him anything of the kind. With the firm determination which Nicolas Coelho at once formed to die sooner than allow himself to be seized upon, he became very vigilant both by day and night, and warned the boy to try to learn with much dissimulation all that they wanted to do and by what means. The boy told him that they would not do it unless they could first concert with the other ships, so that they all should mutiny; at that Nicolas Coelho remained more at ease, but was always very much on his guard for himself.
As the storm did not abate, but rather seemed to increase, and as the cries and clamor of the people were very great, beseeching him to put back, Nicolas Coelho dissembled with them, saying: “Brothers, let us strive to save ourselves from this storm, for I promise you that as soon as I can get speech with the captain-major I will require him to put back, and you will see how I will require it of him.” With this they remained satisfied. Some days having passed thus with heavy storms, the Lord was pleased to assuage the tempest a little and the sea grew calm, so that the ships could speak one another; and Nicolas Coelho, coming up to speak, shouted to the captain-major that “it would be well to put about, since every moment they had death before their eyes, and so many men who went in their company were so piteously begging with tears and cries to put back the ships. And if we do not choose to do so, it would be well if the men should kill or arrest us, and then they would put back or go where it was convenient to save their lives; which we also ought to do. If we do not do it, let each one look out for himself, for thus I do for my part, and for my conscience’ sake, for I would not have to give an account of it to the Lord.”
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