Vasco Da Gama flung into the sea all the implements of their art of navigation, because he placed his hopes in God alone, who would direct them and deliver them from the perils among which they were going.
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
Paulo da Gama, who also had come up within speaking distance, heard all this. When they had heard these words of Nicolas Coelho, who, on ending his speech, at once begun to move away, the captain-major answered him that he would hold a consultation with the pilot and his crew, and that, whatever he determined to do, he would make a signal to him of his resolution. During this time, they lay hove to in the smooth water, because the wind never changed from its former point. Vasco da Gama, as he was very quick-witted, at once understood what Nicolas Coelho’s words meant, and called together all the crew, and said to them that he was not so valiant as not to have the fear of death like themselves, neither was he so cruel as not to feel grieved at heart at seeing their tears and lamentations, but that he did not wish to have to give account to God for their lives, and for that reason he begged them to labor for their safety, because if the bad weather came again he had determined to put back, but, to disculpate himself with the King, it was incumbent upon him to draw up a document of the reasons for putting back, with their signatures.
At this they all raised their hands to heaven, saying that its mercy was already descending upon them, since it was softening the heart of the captain-major and inclining him to put back, and they said they all would sign the great service which he would render to God and to the King by putting back. Then the captain-major said that there was no need of the signatures of all, but only of those who best understood the business of the sea. Then the pilot and master named them, and they were three seamen. Upon this the captain-major retired to his cabin, and told his servants to stand at the door of the cabin, and put inside the clerks to draw up the document, and ordered the three seamen to enter; and, dissembling, he made inquiries as to returning to port, and all was written down and they signed it. He then ordered them to go down below to another cabin which he had beneath his own for a store-cabin, and he ordered the clerk to go down also with them, and he summoned the master and pilot and ordered them below also, telling them to go and sign, as the clerk was there.
Then he called up the seamen, one by one, and ordered them to be put in irons by his servants in his cabin, and heavy irons for the master and pilot. All being well ironed and bound, the captain-major turned them out, and called all the men, ordering the master and pilot at once to give up to him all the articles which they had belonging to the art of navigation, or, if not, that he would at once execute them. Being greatly afraid they gave everything up to him. Then Vasco da Gama, holding the instruments all in his hand, flung them into the sea and said: “See here, men, that you have neither master nor pilot, nor anyone to show you the way from henceforward, because these men whom I have arrested will return to Portugal below the deck, if they do not die before that (for he was aware that they had agreed among one another to rise up and return by force to Portugal, and on that account had cast everything into the sea]; and I do not require master nor pilot, nor any man who knows the art of navigation, because God alone is the master and pilot who has to guide and deliver us by his mercy if we deserve it, and, if not, let his will be done. To him you must commend yourselves and beg mercy. Henceforward let no one speak to me of putting back, for now from me for a certainty that, if I do not find information of what I have come to seek, to Portugal I do not return.”
Seeing and hearing these things, the crew became much more terrified, and with much greater fear of death, which they held as certain, not having either pilot or master, nor anyone who knew how to navigate a ship. Then the prisoners and all the crew on their knees begged him for mercy, with loud cries; the prisoners saying that they, being ignorant men and of faint heart, had come to an understanding to put the ship about and return to the King and offer themselves for death, if he chose to give it them, and they would have taken him a prisoner, that the King might see that he was not to blame for putting back; but this was not to have been done, except with the will of all the people of the other ships; but since God had discovered this to him before they had carried it out, let him show them clemency; for well they saw that they deserved death from him, which was more than the chains which they bore. All the crew frequently called out to him for clemency, and not to put the prisoners below the decks, where they would soon die. Then the captain-major, showing that he only did it at their entreaty, and not for any need which he had of them, ordered them to remain in their cabins in the forecastle, still in irons, and forbade their giving any directions for the navigation of the ship, except only for the trimming of the sails and the work of the ship.
Vasco da Gama then ran alongside of the other ships and spoke them, saying that he had put his pilot and master in irons, in which he would bring them back to the kingdom, if God pleased that they should return there; and, that they should not imagine that he had any need of their knowledge, he had flung into the sea all the implements of their art of navigation, because he placed his hopes in God alone, who would direct them and deliver them from the perils among which they were going, and on that account, since he had now made his men secure, let them secure themselves as they pleased; and without waiting for an answer he sheared off.
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