The Portuguese had a lot of problems with these explorations. It was not easy to travel long distances, and the unexplored territories frightened
First of all, they did not know that the world was round; it was thought that it was flat. Therefore, they were afraid of falling after sailing too south and reaching the Edge of the World.
They were also afraid of the 'sea monsters', which would engulf ships. They did not know anything about the south of Africa and the Atlantic Ocean, so they could not infer what they were going to find.
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They also thought that they could die from burning. They had realized that if they went south the climate was hotter, so they deducted from this that if they travelled too south the water at the equator would be at the boiling point that human skin turned black.
Apart from their fears, they also had problems with the distances and, particularly, with the shape of Africa; they were not aware of its big size. That is why, by the time Bartolomeu Diaz reached its southern tip, everyone in the kingdom of Portugal thought the crew was dead, so Dias decided to return to tell everyone that they had found the end of the continent. However, he also did this because the crew refused to continue traveling due to the lack of supplies and the diseases which had already killed many sailors. The fact that Africa had an end and did not continue until the End of the World was a relief for the crew, and meant that the sea route to India was possible, so it was called the 'Cape of Good Hope' by the king.

The most common and feared disease during navigation was scurvy. It is produced by the lack of vitamin C. As the trips were very long, the crew could not eat fresh fruit and vegetables, so a lot of sailors suffered this disease. The symptoms are a swelling of the gums, and, consequently, the loss of the teeth.Cape_Bojador.gif

Expeditions to the western coast of Africa

This way, the Portuguese age of discovery started, and expeditions to the western coast of Africa were frequent, in the Atlantic Ocean. The reigns of Juan de Avis (Juan I) and don Duarte prevailed the beggining of the expansion.

In 1434 Gil Eanes reached the Cape Bojador, and about twenty years later the Portuguese traded with slaves and gold in the current Senegal.

Expeditions to the north of Africa

Alfonso V

Alfonso V, (1438-81) became the king of Portugal when he was only a child, and one of his uncles, the infant Pedro, who was against the Moroccan politics and was not valued by the noblemen, got the reign of the kingdom during the minority of the monarch. When it finished, the noblemen dominated again and Pedro was assassinated in Alfarrobeira (Algarve, Portugal), in 1449. This marks the beggining of a period characterized by the priority of the economic needs of the noblemen and frequent military expeditions to the north of Africa, specially to Alcazarquivir, Tangier, Arzila, Larache.

Interruption of the expeditions to the North of Africa

Juan II

Juan II (1481-95) made a big change in the politics of the country by executing or arresting some of the most powerful Portuguese knights. The military expeditions to the north of Africa were interrupted and it was tried to find a sea route that joined Europe and India for trading with spices. Juan II was convinced that this route existed, and that it was in the south of of the Afican continent. For this reason, he encouraged the portuguese to explore in that direction. In 1482 an expedition commanded by Diogo Cão arrived at the kingdon of Congo.

The Portuguese success

The Portuguese expansion overseas continued during the reign of Manuel I (1495-1521). In 1498 Vasco da GaCalicut_and_Goa_map.pngma arrived at Calicut (India), after surrounding the cape of Good Hope, ten years after Bartolomeu Diaz had found it and named it (although its original name was the cape of Storms). Then, a period of intense maritime, commercial and military activity started, and was extended until the end of the 16th century. In 1510 Alfonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa, which the Portuguese transformed into a big city of maritime trad
Western coast of Africa
e. The possession of Ormuz since 1515 guarenteed the navigation and trade in the Persian Gulf.

In one century, Portuguese dominion covered zones in the north of Africa; the islands of Azores (in 1427, by the explorer Diogo de Silves), Madeira (1418), Cape Verde, São Tomé, Socotora, Mascate, Ceilan and Molucas; Guinea and African cities in the Indian Ocean. Portuguese ships also got to China (stablishing in Macao) and Japan. Meanwhile, in 1500, Pedro Alvares Cabral sailed to India, but he arrived in Brazil. The Colonization and the trade with India were soon organized by the government, so the crown had at its disposal good resources.

This map, created by us, shows the two main Portuguese expeditions: Vasco da Gama's and Bartolomeu Diaz's.

Ver Portuguese Explorations en un mapa más grande