Vasco da Gama was born around the year 1469 in Sines, Portugal. He came from a noble family, which already set him apart from his peers. He made a name for himself by staunchly defending Portuguese interests on the coast of Guinea against French encroachments. This dedication to his country's interests paved the way for da Gama to take command of an expedition to round Africa and reach India, a task that was handed to him in January 1497.
On July 8th, 1497, da Gama and his crew of four ships sailed for the Southern Waters. They embarked on a challenging journey, but by November they had successfully rounded the horn and reached the furthest point to which the explorer Dias had previously traveled. At this point, da Gama recognized that he needed the services of a seasoned navigator to direct him to India. This proved to be more challenging than anticipated, as he encountered difficulties when he attempted to secure these services in Muslim Mozambique.
Eventually, he was warmly received in Melinda, located in modern-day Kenya on the East African coast. There, he was finally able to secure the services of a navigator to guide his journey to India.
On May 20th, da Gama and his crew arrived at their destination, Calicut, in India. Demonstrating diplomatic acumen, da Gama was able to negotiate an initial trade agreement with the local authorities. Having achieved his mission, he set sail for his return voyage to Portugal on October 15th, 1498. He arrived in Portugal on July 10th, 1499. Upon his return, da Gama was celebrated and received with a hero's welcome.
In 1502, da Gama was dispatched on a new mission to India. This time, he was armed with 20 warships, a clear message of Portugal's intent to enforce its demands. Along the journey, he attacked Arab merchant ships without discrimination. He laid a brutal siege to Calicut, destroyed a fleet of 29 warships, and forced the local princes to agree to his demands. Following this, he continued to Cochin, where he was successful in establishing a Portuguese colony. Da Gama returned to Portugal in September 1503, his ships laden with highly prized merchandise.
In 1524, da Gama was once again sent out to India. Tragically, he contracted malaria on the way and died in Cochin that same year.