It was a spring morning in 1533 when a fleet of grand sailing ships pulled away from Lisbon harbor, bound for the lands of the Indian Ocean. They were laden with treasure and trade goods which would be exchanged for the exotic spices of the East. One of the ships was the Bom Jesus. But nobody onboard that day knew that this vessel and her crew would never be seen in Lisbon again.
That voyage had set sail when King John III was on the Portuguese throne. He was known as “The Colonizer,” and during his rule Portugal greatly extended her colonial territories. He was noted for developing the country’s lucrative trade in spices such as pepper, cloves and nutmeg, from countries such as India.
Portuguese maritime expertise made this trade possible at a time when, for Europeans, places such as India, Zanzibar and Mombasa were almost impossibly remote. The Portuguese traveled across the world thanks to their innovative navigational skills and their sturdy ships called naus, or carracks in English.