Christopher Columbus Ships: The Unsolved Mystery of His Revolutionary Vessels

Christopher Columbus Ships: If Christopher Columbus discovered America, his ships deserve immediate acknowledgment. Despite decades of archaeologist search, his initial expedition’s three ships remain unfound.

Christopher Columbus’s Ships revolutionized ship travel at an era when ships were the fastest form of global conveyance. They are recognized in American popular culture, and generations of schoolchildren have learned about them.

When Christopher Columbus went from Spain in the 15th century, three ships, now known as the Christopher Columbus Ships, and their crews supported him.

Such support helped Christopher Columbus discover America and establish a powerful empire.

On August 3, 1492, Colombus set sail from Palos de la Frontera, Spain, with three ships. After discovering the Americas, Spain handed him 17 ships to colonize Hispaniola.

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Christopher Columbus Ships

Christopher Columbus Ships
Credit: Snopes

Santa Maria, Niña, and Pinta are renowned ships that helped Christopher Columbus discover a nation and gave water transport a renewed sense of purpose, particularly in today’s less popular era.

At least two of these were crew nicknames for their ships and largely drew from the vernacular. They were originally La Santa Clara, La Pinta, and La Santa Gallega. The ship nicknames were based on prostitute names, which the church disliked. They describe another set of incidents in those times.

Santa Maria was the adventurer’s flagship of three ships. The non-marine equivalent of a flagship is a leader. Santa Maria led the three ships.

The Santa Maria, a freight ship weighing 200–600 tons and measuring 18 meters long, 12 meters keel-long, six meters beam-wide, and two meters draft-wide, had 52 crew members.

Santa Maria was originally called La Gallega after Galicia, where it was built. Still, Christopher Columbus renamed the ship Santa Maria de la Immaculate Concepción or Santa Maria.

Santa Maria had three sailable masts. Mainmast, foremast, and mizzenmast. While Santa Maria had certain beneficial qualities, its design prevented it from sailing near shallow waters and coral reefs, which handicapped her.

Shipwreck Search

Shipwreck Search
(Credit: Britannica)

According to Colombus’ logbook, Santa Maria grounded on a reef off Cap Haïtien, Haiti, on Christmas Eve, 1492. The fortified hamlet of La Navidad, which has not been found, was built using its hull. Many archaeologists search Anne’s Bay and other areas for the shipwreck.

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The other two ships, Niña and Pinta, enabled Christopher Columbus overcome the deficit of the flagship and complete his journey. In Spanish, Niña denotes a girl, whereas Pinta refers to the over-painting of the third Christopher Columbus ship.

Christopher Columbus’ Niña and Pinta were caravel ships. Lightweight and maneuverable, caravel ships were intended to overcome the challenges of sailing in shallow waters and coral reefs like Santa Maria. They might sail along the canary islands or Cuban coasts. Triangular sails hung 45 degrees from the deck in Portuguese caravels.

About 18 crew members comprised the Niña and Pinta shipping crew. The Pinta was the quickest of the three Christopher Columbus Ships, attaining 8 knots a day (200 miles), whereas Santa Maria was the slowest due to its size. Martín Alonso Pinzón, a Andalucian, was Pinta’s captain.

The Niña was around 50-60 tons, with dimensions of 15 meters length, 12 meters keel length, 5 meters beam-length, and 2 meters depth. Vicente Aes Pinzón, Martn’s brother, was in charge of it.

However, the Pinta weighed 70 tons and measured 17 meters lengthwise, 13 meters keel-wise, five meters beam-wise, and two meters depth-wise.

Under a rule, the Royal Crown of Spain offered Christopher Columbus the Niña and Pinta as punishment for wrongdoing against the Spanish Royalty.

Four Christopher Columbus Ship crew members were convicts who were given amnesty by the Spanish Crown instead of joining the expedition.

Thus, with the support of the Spanish Royalty and Christopher Columbus, the three Christopher Columbus Ships explored the oceans and discovered a vast Western nation.

In today’s world, when air travel is common and moon landings are routine, Christopher Columbus and his ships’ successful trip is something everyone wants to know about.

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