Pedro Alvarez Cabral

Portuguese Navigator

Born: 1467

Died: 1520

In 1500, King Manuel of Portugal appointed Cabral, son of a nobleman, to head a trade expedition to India. He was to proceed along Vasco de Gama’s route along the Cape of Good Hope with 13 ships and a crew of over 1,000 men.

Cabral headed westward, wanting to stay in calm waters, but was blown further west until he came upon a land he named the “Island of the True Cross.” It later became know as Brazil due to the region’s valuable red dye-wood called pau-brasil, one of the area’s main exports. Realizing it was far enough east to fall within Portugal’s sphere of influence granted by the Treaty of Tordesillas, he claimed possession of the territory and sent a ship home to report news of the great discovery.

After just 10 days in Brazil, Cabral set out eastward for India, but the voyage was rough. Cabral lost four ships off the Cape of Good Hope, including one captained by Bartolomeu Dias, the Portuguese explorer who first rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488. The remaining ships made it through the treacherous waters to Calcutta, India only to find opposition from Muslim traders. Moving further south to attempt trade in other markets for precious spices, Cabral was finally successful. On the return trip, however, two more ships were lost before the survivors of the expedition returned to their homeland of Portugal in 1501.

Though Cabral’s expedition was deemed a success, further expeditions were delegated to de Gama, while Cabral retired to his estate and live the remainder of his life in relative obscurity

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