Portuguese navigator born in Lagos, squire of the household of Prince Henrique. In 1433 he was the captain of a barque intended to round Cape Bojador, but he only went as far as the Canary Islands, where some slaves were seized. The following year, he was put in charge of the same task and this time he succeeded in rounding the cape; according to Gomes Eanes de Zurara, the Prince awarded him knighthood for such feat.
In 1435, he sailed again to the western coast of Africa in a barque, as part of the fleet of Afonso Gonçalves Baldaia, who captained a ballinger. They must have sailed along 50 leagues of the coast south of Cape Bojador, where they found traces of human presence and of camels. For nine years the name of Gil Eanes is not included in the Crónica da Guiné [Chronicle of Guinea], probably because he stayed in Lagos as a merchant ? due to the Discoveries commerce was prosperous in those days.
In 1444 the navigator was part of the expedition of Lançarote de Lagos to the coast of Arguin. Unlike such enterprises, this was a private fleet (with permission of Prince Henry the Navigator). On the island of Naar, the captain and his men seized 165 slaves. Then they went to Tidra Island and the fleet was divided, having Gil Eanes stood guard to the smaller boats, as suggested by him, instead of taking part in the attack to the island. Of this enterprise resulted the largest apprehension of slaves ever since by the Portuguese navigators.
In 1445, Gil Eanes was again part of a fleet lead by Lançarote. In this expedition, the most important one ever until that moment, there were 26 caravels and 1 foist, mostly from Lagos but also from Lisbon and Madeira Island. Its main purpose was to avenge the death of Gonçalo Sintra, in 1444, at Tidra Island. According to Zurara, its inhabitants could prove perilous to Portuguese ships, but there were also commercial purposes: basically, the capture of slaves. After having conquered the island, Lançarote, following Prince Henrique?s orders, stepped back and gave his captains the freedom to do as they pleased; together with some other captains, Gil Eanes chose to return to Portugal immediately, for his caravels were small and winter was approaching.
Nothing further came to light about his life, although the existence of several namesakes did now and again cause some confusion, as Luís de Albuquerque pointed out.
ALBUQUERQUE, Luís de, Navegadores, Viajantes e Aventureiros Portugueses, Lisboa, Caminho, 1992. IDEM, Gil Eanes, Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical, Lisboa, 1987. COSTA, Fontoura da, Descobrimentos marítimos africanos dos portugueses com D. Henrique, D. Afonso V e D. João II, Lisboa, Sociedade Nacional de Tipografia, 1938. MATOS, Luís Jorge Semedo de, ?Eanes, Gil? in Navegações Portuguesas (Em linha, a 2/9/2009, http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/navegaport/d22.html). ZURARA, Gomes Eanes de, Crónica dos feitos notáveis que se passaram na conquista de Guiné por mandado do infante D. Henrique, 2 vols., Lisboa, Academia Portuguesa de História, 1981.
Author: Teresa Lacerda
Translated by: Maria das Mercês Pacheco