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The seaway was now open, but eight years were to elapse before it was exploited.
In 1492 Columbus had apparently reached the East by a much easier route.
In the 100 years from the mid-15th to the mid-16th century, a combination of circumstances stimulated men to seek new routes, and it was new routes rather than new lands that filled the minds of kings and commoners, scholars and seamen.
First, toward the end of the 14th century, the vast empire of the Mongols was breaking up; thus, Western merchants could no longer be assured of safe-conduct along the land routes.By the end of the decade, however, doubts of the validity of Columbus’s claim were current.Interest was therefore renewed in establishing the sea route south by east to the known riches of India.Second, the Ottoman Turks and the Venetians controlled commercial access to the Mediterranean and the ancient sea routes from the East.Third, new nations on the Atlantic shores of Europe were now ready to seek overseas trade and adventure.Dinís Dias reached the mouth of the Sénégal, which “men say comes from the Nile, being one of the most glorious rivers of Earth, flowing from the Garden of Eden and the earthly paradise.” Once the desert coast had been passed, the sailors pushed on: in 14 Alvise Ca’ da Mosto made voyages to Gambia and the Cape Verde Islands.Prince Henry died in 1460 after a career that had brought the colonization of the Madeira Islands and the Azores and the traversal of the African coast to Sierra Leone.Peninsular India (on which Cananor and Calicut are named) is shown; although too small, it is, however, recognizable.There is even an indication to the east of it of the Bay of Bengal, with a great river running into it.In 1487, a Portuguese emissary, Pêro da Covilhã, successfully followed the first route; but, on returning to Cairo, he reported that, in order to travel to India, the Portuguese “could navigate by their coasts and the seas of Guinea.” In the same year, another Portuguese navigator, Cape of Storms in such bad weather that he did not see it, but he satisfied himself that the coast was now trending northeastward; before turning back, he reached the Great Fish River, in what is now South Africa.On the return voyage, he sighted the Cape and set up a pillar upon it to mark its discovery.