Vasco da Gama
In the middle of the 15th century, Portugal was the leading seafaring nation in Europe. There was great rivalry between Portugal and Spain for the control of trade with India and China. At the time it was believed that the Atlantic ocean and the Pacific ocean were landlocked. Christopher Columbus believed the East Indies (the lands of South and Southeast Asia) could be reached by sailing west across the Atlantic. In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain provided money to fund Columbus’ plans. He discovered the Americas in 1492 and thought he had reached Asia.
Vasco da Gama from Portugal was actually the first European to reach India by sea. His first voyage to India took two years (1497-1499). This was the first time Europe and Asia were connected by an ocean route. Today we visited the monastery of St. Jerome in Lisbon which is the final resting place of this famous Portuguese explorer. Many roads and buildings are named after Vasco da Gama in Portugal. We saw the Vasco da Gama bridge in Lisbon which is the longest bridge in Europe. It took three years to build (1995-1998) – eighteen months of preparation and eighteen months of construction. It spans the river Targus which is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula at 1007km long.
Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos)
Standing at 171 feet (50 meters), this monument is a tribute to the success of Portuguese explorations in an era known as The Age of Discoveries, which began in 1415 and led to the creation of Portugal’s empire.
On our trip to Lisbon we visited Belém Tower which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is Lisbon’s most famous landmark and built to celebrate Vasco da Gama’s expedition. It was built as a lighthouse and fortress near the shore of the river Tagus which flows into the Atlantic Ocean near Lisbon.
Lisbon Interactive Science Museum, Dinner and Disco
We visited a science museum which had lots of interactive displays and even a “flying” bicycle. It was the first time for all of us to cycle 16m from the ground! We joined a workshop on space in the laboratory which explained why Mars is red. The iron in the dust on Mars reacts with oxygen to create a red, rust colour. The sky looks red because storms carry the dust into the atmosphere. We learned about the daily challenges facing astronauts aboard the International Space Station – washing, exercising without gravity, using velcro to attach items such as shoes to the walls. Conor demonstrated an experiment to show how objects travel faster in a vacuum. In the evening all the pupils and teachers went to a restaurant. After the meal a DJ played some music and everyone danced until 11pm. You can view some clips from our day in the video below.