"Discovering" Brazil

As far as rewards for a successful mission were concerned, Cabral was entitled to 10,000 cruzados (the equivalent, according to the Wikipedia, of 35 kilograms of gold). He was allowed to purchase thirty tonnes of pepper and ten boxes of other spices, bring them back to Portugal, land them duty-free and then sell them to the Crown.

The fleet sailed from Lisbon on 9 March 1500 at noon, passed the Canary Islands on the 14th, and reached Cape Verde on the 22nd.  A nau with one hundred and fifty men aboard commanded by Vasco de Ataíde disappeared without a trace on the 23rd. The rest of the fleet crossed the Equator on 9 April, heading away from the African coast to exploit the volta do mar (turn of the sea), seaweed on the 21st, and anchored off what Cabral christened Monte Pascoal ("Easter Mount") on the northeast coast of Brazil the following day.

What happened next would seem to confirm the notion that the Portuguese had some degree of prior knowledge of the coast, and that the discovery of Brazil was not an accident. 

On 23 April Cabral sent Nicolau Coelho ashore to make contact and exchange gifts with the indigenous people, and then took the fleet sixty-five kilometres north to anchor in what Cabral named Porto Seguro (Safe Port). Ashore, after establishing contact with the local people and verifying that the newly "discovered" land lay within the post-Tordesillas Portuguese hemisphere, the crews set about stockpiling firewood, water and other provisions. They also erected a massive wooden cross to establish Portugal's claim to what Cabral named Ilha de Vera Cruz (Island of the True Cross).

He was not, at this point, aware that he had encountered a continental land mass. That realisation came after the fleet set sail again in early May. In the meantime, a store ship commanded by either Gaspar de Lemos or André Gonçalves (sources give both names) turned back to Portugal to report the discovery.

On to Calicut

© Ian Hughes 2017