Carreira da Índia

   The roundtrip Portugal-India-Portugal voyage during the16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, in the age of sail. Undoubtedly the longest and most arduous of all such sea voyages by sail during the age of European expansion, the Carreira da Índia, including a stay in Goa, Portuguese India, lasted about a year and a half; its scheduling was conditioned by tropical winds, including the Indian Ocean monsoon. The first Carreira da Índia, in effect, was Vasco da Gama's pioneering voyage of 1497-99. Subsequent annual India fleet voyages lasted until the age of steam in the 19th century and were even longer than the similar Spanish voyage, Car-rera de Filipinas, the annual voyage of the Manila galleon across the Pacific to Mexico (1565-1815).
   The Carreira da Índia, which began with the voyage from Portugal to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, and on to western India (Goa), some six or seven months on the way out, with a return voyage of a similar length, covered 9,000-10,000 miles one way and was subject to complex tides, winds, and other weather conditions resulting in numerous shipwrecks. The timing of the India fleet's departure from Portugal was based on the timing of the southwest monsoon, which begins in western India in early June. India-bound fleets left Lisbon, therefore, in time to round the Cape of Good Hope in July, in order to reach Goa by September. The ships on these trade-oriented voyages were usually carracks or galleons of increasingly greater tonnage. Outward-bound fleets included from seven to 14 ships, while homeward-bound fleets often had only half that number. Built often of Indian teak or European pine or oak, the India fleet's ships carried several thousand persons on board. As this seaborne empire aged, however, recruiting skilled, experienced crews of sufficient size was increasingly a problem. There is a significant early modern literature in Portuguese that treats the subject of India fleet shipwrecks and related tragedies.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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