Columbus, Nina Pinta, Santa Maryia

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Free History For Your Report

Ships of Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was one of the world’s most important explorers of unknown lands and exotic locales. Born in the independent Ligurian state of The Most Serene Republic of Genoa in 1451, Columbus became one of the Old World’s chief explorers under the leadership and financial assistance of Spain’s Queen Isabella. Contrary to many popular beliefs, Columbus was not the first European explorer to discover the Americas, but rather he was the first European to begin regular contact with the indigenous people of the Americas and advance the idea of Spanish (and then European settlement) of the new world. Christopher Columbus made a total of four voyages from Spain to the New World during a time frame that spanned from August 3rd, 1492 – November 7th, 1504.
The most famous of these voyages was the first, after which the news of Columbus’ exploration of the New World became significant and exciting news throughout Europe. The three ships under Columbus’ command for this initial voyage were the Santa Maria de la Inmaculada Concepcion (the Santa Maria), the Pinta (Spanish for “the painted one”), and the Nina (Spanish for “the little girl”). All three of the ships were owned by Spanish explorerJuandelaCosaandtwoofthePinzónbrothers,Martȋ nAlonsoandVicente Yáñez. After departing the Spanish harbor, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria made a preliminary stop for restocking and other provisions in the Canary Islands. Nearly a month later, on September 6th, the three ships began their five-week voyage to the New World.

The first landing in the New World came on October 12th, 1492 on an island in the Bahamas (believed to be the modern-day islands of either San Salvador or Plana Cays), which was followed by a friendly encounter with the native peoples. Columbus (in his journal entries) viewed these natives as ill-prepared for warfare, potentially good servants, and easy converts to Christianity. Before departing back across the Atlantic, Columbus and his crew also visited Cuba and Hispaniola, an island in the Antilles. Of the locales visited by Columbus in this New World, Hispaniola witnessed the greatest impact. Upon the Santa Maria accidently running aground on December 25, 1492, Columbus chose to establish the Spanish settlement of La Navidad on the island to keep an eye on the valuable contents of the ship, in what is now present-day Haiti. A number of the local populous was also forcibly kidnapped by Columbus’ crew in order to be brought back for show and examination in Spain. While it is unclear how many natives were kidnapped, it is well- documented that only seven survived the intense voyage. The trip home was delayed over a week due to a storm in the Spanish harbor, which required the remaining Pinta and Nina to dock in Portugal temporarily. Columbus and his crew safely arrived back in Spain on March 15, 1493.

Of the three ships to make this initial voyage, only the Santa Maria was constructed for the express purpose of exploration and was truly designed to survive the intense seas of an Atlantic crossing. Ironically, it is the only ship that did not make it back to Spain. With an occupancy of 40 men, the Santa Maria was a three-masted windjammer that was 70 feet in length. Upon her demise in present-day Haiti, the salvageable timber was utilized to build the La Navidad settlement. Up to three modern-day replicas of the Santa Maria have been constructed (one of them non-sailing) but all of these recreations are based on speculative information; no photograph of the ship exists, and drawings and journal entries by her owners and crew often contradict one another in describing the type of ship it was.

The second ship, the Nina, was a much smaller and more maneuverable vessel than the Santa Maria, and was known as a caravel-type ship. Carrying twenty-three men on the first voyage, she became Columbus’ main ship after the wrecking of the Santa Maria. The Nina’s biggest claim to fame was her designation as the flagship (out of a total charter of 17 ships) for an exploratory voyage to Cuba in 1495. This voyage didn’t go as planned as a massive hurricane killed hundreds of crew members and destroyed 16 ships in the charter; only the Nina survived. After venturing to Hispaniola for Columbus’ third voyage in 1498 she served as a trading ship in the New World. The last record of her was in 1501 in the Pearl Coast; she is not believed to have ever returned to Spain.

The third ship, La Pinta, was the middle-sized ship on the initial voyage and also the fastest. Her dimensions are better known than that of the other ships; this caravel vessel carried twenty-six men and was 90 feet long. A replica of the Nina currently travels the world and serves as a sailing museum dedicated to the explorations of Christopher Columbus.

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