PRINCE HENRY THE NAVIGATOR AND HIS EXCITING SPONSORED EXPEDITIONS TO DANGEROUS AFRICA
BY KATY PETERSHACK
The expeditions sent out by Prince Henry the Navigator were full of adventure. These expeditions reached places in Africa where no man or woman had ever dreamed of. Africa was full of exotic new plants and animals that no one had ever seen before. Africa was, to the explorers, a dangerous place, full of mystery and excitement. Prince Henry the Navigator sent out many missions to explore this new land. Four explorers that Prince Henry hired were Diogo Gomes, Gil Eannes, Avise Ca’da Mosto, and Bartolomeu Dias. These were the most significant explorers because each of them did something that contributed greatly to the time when exploration was extremely important, during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.
Price Henry the Navigator was the third son of The King of Portugal, Philippa John I. Prince Henry’s two main goals were to discover more of the Moroccan coast and discover the southerly route to the Indies. Although he did not know it at the time, he opened the door for the exploration of the New World.
Gil Eannes was important because he sailed past Cape Bojador and proved that it was possible to sail past this dreaded cape.
In Henry’s first few missions nobody would dare to go past Cape Bojador. This was because the sailors were afraid the waters beyond the coastline, about five kilometers out, were only two meters deep and the currents were so strong they would take the ship away. Another fear was that the crew would die from starvation or dehydration because of the burning heat of the sun. In 1433, one explorer tried to sail past this Cape. His name was Gil Eannes. Gil Eannes was chosen to do this job because Henry knew that if he sent a sailor or a merchant then they would know about how dangerous of a trip this was for they would know that no other man had tried and succeeded to get past Cape Bojador. They would also know that they probably could not make much of a profit from this trip, so they would think, “what’s the point?” He had some experience at sailing and he was Prince Henry’s squire. Prince Henry had taken care of Eannes since he was a young boy. Eannes also would not be looking to make a profit. Therefor Eannes was the perfect man.
The first time he tried but he did not succeed in passing this mysterious cape for he had heard many stories about it and turned back. Prince Henry found out and immediately commanded Eannes to go back. The second time Eannes was successful. Two years later, Eannes and another man, Afonso de Baldaya went 50 leagues further south and discovered footprints of camels and people! The next year, Baldaya went without Eannes. He sailed to Rio de Orio. Then, seven years later, Eannes sets sail and brought back 200 African people to be used as slaves. This is how the European slave trade began.
This mission went well at first. The sky was clear and the air was not too hot. Then as the ship got nearer to the Cape the heat became unbearable, but still Eannes would not give up. To sail beyond the shallow waters Eannes headed west and then turned east. He did this not only to get past the shallow waters, but also to trick his crew into continuing because his crew was so hot that they thought there was no hope. He had finally passed Cape Bojador.
The crew on this mission had many fears for they were the first crew to try and make it past the “dreaded” Cape Bojador. The crew was made up of fifteen men. The most common fears were getting lost at sea, dying from the unbearable heat, running aground on the shallow bottom, and running out of food or water.
Diogo Gomes sailed past the Geba River, discovered two of the Cape Verde Islands, and convinced an African chief to become Christian.
Diogo Gomes was chosen by Prince Henry not only because he was a good explorer and navigator, but also because he knew how the use a map and a compass for he had many years of experience. In one of Diogo Gomes’s missions he sailed past the Geba River. On the way back from this trip, his crew sailed inland to the town of Cantor where he encountered people from Timbuktu. Gomes was not able to travel any farther inland because of an illness that left many of his crew sick. On Gomes’s second voyage he went with Antonio de Noli, saw Sao Tiago and Maio, which are two of the Cape Verde Islands. Gomes thought he was the first to discovered this group of islands, but a Venetian by the name of Alvise Ca’da Mosto had actually been the first to discovered this group of islands in 1456.
In the expedition in which Gomes sailed past the Geba River, there were “currents so strong that no anchor could hold.” (Page 100 in The Worlds Greatest Explorers). This caused Gomes a great deal of trouble for he needed to find another place to anchor. On the way back from his expedition, Gomes stayed with the Africans and convinced their leader, Tristao, that he meant no harm. It is said that Tristao then asked to become Christian. No one is sure if this is true, because this was in only one historical account, which Gomes wrote himself.
There are few accounts of how Gomes’s crew felt on this journey and what their fears may have been. It is a guess though that they were at first extremely frightened about what the Africans might do to them. They also had the fears that most sailors had of never returning, being shipwrecked or dying from dehydration or starvation.
Alvise Ca’da Mosto
Alvise Ca’da Mosto discovered the Cape Verde Islands, explored Madeira, Santo Porto, Santo Maria, The Canary Islands and traveled along the coast of Africa beyond the mouth of the Senegal River.
Alvise Ca’da Mosto was chosen to do work for Prince Henry the Navigator because Prince Henry wanted an adventurer, someone who was willing to work hard for their money and who was brave enough as well as curious enough to take on this exciting task! Alvise Ca’da Mosto was in his early twenties when he was hired by Prince Henry. He had lost all of his money so he decided to become an adventurer and work for someone else.
Alvise Ca’da Mosto, was hired by Prince Henry the Navigator. Ca’da Mosto left Portugal on March 22, in 1455. He explored Madeira, Santo Porto, Santo Maria, the Canary Islands, as well as traveled along the coast of Africa beyond the mouth of the Senegal River. He traveled along the Gambia River for a short time but then left because of the “hostile” people (at least in his opinion). On another mission he explored and discovered two of the Cape Verde Islands in 1456. He found both of these islands uninhabited.
At one time during his voyage, Ca’da Mosto was about to be rowed back to his ship from the mainland but the surf was too high. Two men had to swim to the ship, only one survived. Another day, when Ca’da Mosto was sailing down the Gambia River, his crew began to fall ill. Because of his sick crew, Ca’da Mosto was forced to return to the open sea.
During these expedition, the main fears were the fear of falling ill (which in fact did happen), and then once again the usual fears of slow winds, dehydration, starvation, and being lost at sea.
Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Storms. This is extremely important because he was the first person to get to the very tip of South Africa!
Bartolomeu Dias was chosen by Prince Henry to go see what lay beyond the Cape of Storms because he was very brave, talented, and an adventurous man. Prince Henry knew that Dias would do well. Dias set out on his expedition in 1485.
Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Storms, which was later renamed the Cape of Good Hope. While Dias was traveling around the Cape there was a large storm which prevented him from seeing the Cape. After the storm had finished, he found himself on the other side of the Cape.
The weather was fine on this expedition until Dias started to get near to the Cape of Storms. As he got nearer, the storms got so bad that he could not even see the Cape. He had to head south. He headed so far south though, that he began to see ice chunks so he turned around. After sailing a while he found himself on the other side of the Cape.
The crew on this mission had many fears. This is because no one had ever tried and succeeded to get past the Cape of Storms. The crew’s main fear was of being tossed into the open ocean to be at its mercy. This could be caused easily by a storm (obviously the crew was extremely nervous because of the Cape’s original name, the Cape of Storms). Another fear was that if they survived the storm they might have run very low on food and or water.
The first expeditions sponsored by Prince Henry the Navigator started and encouraged Portuguese exploration during an extremely important time period. Without these explorations, the later expeditions would not be as successful, and the world probably would not be what it is today. The first expeditions opened a door for later ones. If they had not been successful, we may still have not even discovered Africa or the Americas. What would the world be like?