Gama, Vasco da (1469?–1524), a Portuguese navigator. During 1497–98, he completed the first ocean voyage from Europe to Asia, opening the Far East to European trade and colonial expansion. His achievement is the subject of Portugal's national epic poem, Luis Vaz de Camoëns' The Lusiads.
Da Gama's voyage followed more than 50 years of pioneering explorations by other Portuguese navigators. Da Gama had won distinction in wars against Castile. In July, 1497, he sailed from Lisbon with four ships and 170 men. In November the expedition rounded the Cape of Good Hope, which another Portuguese, Bartholomeu Dias, had discovered in 1488. In April, after months of hardship, da Gama and his men landed on Africa's east coast. Da Gama hired an Arab pilot to guide his expedition to India and sailed to the port of Calicut (now called Kozhikode) on India's west coast in May, 1498.
Da Gama's arrival met with hostility from Arab merchants there, who saw the Portuguese as a threat to their trade monoply. Da Gama, nonetheless, was able to assemble a valuable cargo of spices and precious stones. He returned to Lisbon in September, 1499, with only 55 men, the rest having died of scurvy.
Other Portuguese expeditions to India soon followed. After Portuguese merchants in Calicut were murdered, da Gama was made an admiral in 1502 and sent with a fleet to avenge the crime. He bombarded the city and engaged in bloody reprisals. On this trip, da Gama founded several trading posts in India and established Portuguese settlements on the east coast of Africa (present-day Mozambique). Da Gama was made a count in 1519. In 1524 he was appointed viceroy of India, but died soon after arriving in Cochin in September of that year.