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PlanetSolar heading out into uncharted technical waters. The theory was in place, but nobody knew if this solar powered boat could make it. But they did! The solar panel area on this ship was increased with solar panels on rollers, pulled out by the crew using winches. The Elizabeth Swann uses robotics and hydraulics to move solar wings that automatically track the sun, and fold away in storm conditions. This ship does not have sails or a wind turbine to take advantage of the trade winds.


Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira C. 1460s – 24 December 1524, was a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea.

His initial voyage to India (1497–1499) was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans and therefore, the West and the Orient. This is widely considered a milestone in world history, as it marked the beginning of a sea-based phase of global multiculturalism. Da Gama's discovery of the sea route to India opened the way for an age of global imperialism and enabled the Portuguese to establish a long-lasting colonial empire in Asia. Traveling the ocean route allowed the Portuguese to avoid sailing across the highly disputed Mediterranean and traversing the dangerous Arabian Peninsula. The sum of the distances covered in the outward and return voyages made this expedition the longest ocean voyage ever made until then, far longer than a full voyage around the world by way of the Equator.

After decades of sailors trying to reach the Indies, with thousands of lives and dozens of vessels lost in shipwrecks and attacks, da Gama landed in Calicut on 20 May 1498. Unopposed access to the Indian spice routes boosted the economy of the Portuguese Empire, which was previously based along northern and coastal West Africa. The main spices at first obtained from Southeast Asia were pepper and cinnamon, but soon included other products, all new to Europe. Portugal maintained a commercial monopoly of these commodities for several decades. It was not until a century later that other European powers, first the Dutch Republic and England, later France and Denmark, were able to challenge Portugal's monopoly and naval supremacy in the Cape Route.

Da Gama led two of the Portuguese India Armadas, the first and the fourth. The latter was the largest and departed for India four years after his return from the first one. For his contributions, in 1524 da Gama was appointed Governor of India, with the title of Viceroy, and was ennobled as Count of Vidigueira in 1519. He remains a leading figure in the history of exploration, and homages worldwide have celebrated his explorations and accomplishments. The Portuguese national epic poem, Os Lusíadas, was written in his honour by Luís de Camões.


In March 2016 thousands of artifacts and nautical remains were recovered from the wreck of the ship Esmeralda, one of da Gama's armada, found off the coast of Oman.



Between 1451 and 1506 Christopher Columbus tried to investigate water movement in the sea. During his exploration mission, he used vessels to sail across various areas, namely the Canary Islands to the Bahamas covering 5400 miles, a voyage of around 36 days.


During this period, also known as the Age of Sail, other explorers like Vasco Da Gama were unknowingly assisted by these winds to discover new lands and even a route to India. He sailed between July 1497 and May 1498 and was instrumental in humans conquering the sea. The Portuguese and Spanish traders soon realised that the prevailing north easterlies of the mid latitudes could blow a ship across the Atlantic Ocean, and even better, the south easterlies on the other side could blow them back again. It was no luck, it was a natural phenomena.


Other explorers added weight to this research, among them a Norwegian called Thor Heyerdahl, in 1947 with his Kontiki and later Ra expeditions, discovering that trade winds are capable of blowing a balsa raft from South America to the Tuamoto Islands, and a reeds floater from Egypt to America.

With the advent of the ages of steam and later technologies, we have almost forgotten the role that the Trade Winds in developing our global economy.





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