Vasco da Gama (1876)

Vasco da Gama at the opening of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal in 1895. Royal Navy photo in the collection of the Imperial War Museums.

Ship Class
Laid Down

Laid down in 1875, Vasco da Gama was built by the Thames Iron Works for Portugal. Commissioning in 1878, da Gama saw service in a coastal defense role, and represented Portugal in the Spithead Review for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. She underwent a major reconstruction from 1901-03, where her length was increased by 10m (32.5 feet), her weapons and engines were upgraded, and her sailing rig was removed. In 1907, da Gama suffered a gas explosion that killed several crewmen. Some of her crew were arrested for political unrest in April, 1913, and in 1915 the crew killed the captain and bombarded Lisbon. Vasco da Gama was the flagship of the Portuguese Navy at least until 1914, due to the budget being too small to replace her. Vasco da Gama remained on active duty until sold for scrap in 1935, and remains Portugal's only capital ship to date.

Bonus Photos

Da Gama after reconstruction, c.1904. Note her sponson-mounted 8" guns. Originally published in Jane's Fighting Ships, 1904, original believed to be in the public domain.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: In her fifty-seven years of service, Vasco da Gama served through the emergence of the US as a World Power, the dawn of the Dreadnought Age, World War I, the advent of the submarine and aircraft carrier, and the Great Depression.