Don Henry, in 1444, made an exchange with Massiot de Betancour, lord of the Canary Islands, for the islands of Lancerota, Fuertaventura, and Ferro, giving him some possessions in the island of Madeira in their stead; and immediately fitted out a powerful squadron, commanded by the grand master of his household, Fernand de Castro, to take possession of this new acquisition, and to subdue the remaining islands, Canaria, Palma, Gratioso, Inferno, Alegrazze, Santa-Chiara, Rocca, and Lobos. But, as the king of Castile afterwards laid claim to the Canaries, Don Henry resigned his conquests, finding the value of these islands by no means answerable to his expectation.
So greatly had the fame of the new discoveries extended in consequence of the small quantity of gold which had been procured by Gonzales at the Rio del Ouro, that several of the inhabitants of Lagos petitioned Don Henry, in 1444, to be erected into a trading company, engaging to carry on the discoveries along the coast of Africa at their own expence. The prince granted their request, and a company was accordingly formed, the prototype of those celebrated East India companies which have since carried on trade to such vast amount. Among the partners were, Juan Diaz, the ancestor of him who afterwards discovered and passed the Cape of Good Hope, Gilianez, who had so boldly overcome the obstacles of Cape Bajador, Lancerot, a gentleman of the household of Don Henry, Estevan Alfonso, and Rodrigo Alvarez. A squadron of six caravels was fitted out under the command of Lancerot, which sailed from Lagos in the year 1444, and reached the isle of Garcas, in the bay of Arguin, where they captivated an hundred and fifty Africans, and returned to Lagos, after very slightly extending their knowledge of the coast of Africa to the desart island of Tider, in 19 deg. 30’ N.
In 1445, the subsequent voyage of Gonzales da Cintra, likewise a gentleman in the household of Don Henry, in some measure expiated the wanton outrage which had been committed in that of Lancerot. The merit of Gonzales had raised him to the rank of a gentleman in the household of Don Henry, and his character was held in much estimation; but his confidence was obtained and betrayed by a moor of the Assanhaji tribe, whom he had taken on board to serve as an interpreter with the natives on the coast of Africa. Misled by this crafty African, who held out great hopes of acquiring plunder, Gonzales steered for the island of Arguin, and put into a creek or bay on the coast, in lat. 22 deg. 48’ N. about fourteen leagues to the south of Rio del Ouro, and forty-five to the north of Cape Branco. The Moor got leave to go on shore, under pretence of visiting some relations, but escaped in the night with another of his countrymen. Gonzales was much mortified at allowing himself to be circumvented by the cunning of his interpreter, and rashly embarked in a boat with only twelve men, with the intention of pursuing the fugitive.