Second voyage

Having terrorised Muslim ports along Africa's east coast, da Gama's fleet repeated the tactics after they arrived off the Indian coast in September, capturing any Arab vessel they encountered in Indian waters. In the most notorious incident, da Gama seized a ship travelling from Calicut to Mecca and set it ablaze, killing several hundred pilgrims, including women and children. 

After reducing Onor and Batecala to tribute, forging an alliance with the local ruler and establishing a factory at Cannanore da Gama installed a new factor at Cochin and arrived at Calicut seeking redress for the way Cabral had been treated.

He started by demanding that the Zamorin expel all the Muslims in the city. When the response from the shore was unsatisfactory, the ships bombarded the city for nearly two days, wrecked the city's port and killed thirty-eight hostages. From there, they moved to Cochin, south of Calicut, formed an alliance with the local ruler, and put an Arab fleet the Zamorin had hired to challenge the Portuguese armada to full flight off Calicut. 

After loading the homeward bound ships with spices at Cochin and Cannanore, the Fourth Armada left Cannanore bound for Mozambique on the first leg of the return voyage on 20 February 1503 and anchored in the Tagus on 11 October.

Although da Gama left a squadron of six or seven caravels commanded his uncle, Vicente Sodré, to patrol the coast, harass shipping bound for Calicut shipping, and to protect the factories at Cochin and Cannanore from the inevitable reprisals, things did not quite work out that way.

But when da Gama arrived in Portugal, he had failed in his primary mission, to bring the Zamorin to submission. That failure and the failure of Vicente Sodré to protect the factory in Cochin shaped subsequent appointments. 

Changing fortunes

© Ian Hughes 2017