Fun Facts About Christopher Columbus' Ships

by Robert Morello Google
Columbus sailed across the Atlantic for the first time in 1492.

Columbus sailed across the Atlantic for the first time in 1492.

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Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer supplied by the king and queen of Spain during his 1492 expedition to find a shorter and more efficient route to the Far East. Columbus and his entourage made their famous voyage aboard three ships: the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. All three ships reached the New World at San Salvador in the Bahamas in October 1492.

The Nina

The Nina's true name was the Santa Clara but, as with all Spanish ships, the tradition was to call a ship by the middle name of its owner. Juan Nino de Moguer owned the Nina . The Nina was reported to be the middle ship of the three as far as size and top speed with all ships ranging from 5 to 8 knots. The Nina was a caravel estimated to have been about 67 feet long, 21 feet across with 7 feet of draft and a weight of 50 to 60 tons . Vincent Yanez Pinzon was the captain of the Nina .

The Pinta

Like the Nina, the Pinta was a dual-masted caravel with a rear-mounted rudder and a single deck. The Nina and Pinta both had 25 crew members with only one cabin located below decks and out of the elements. Crew may otherwise sleep in the open or in the hold as they wished. The captain of the Pinta was named Martin Alonzo Pinzon from Moguer . The Pinta was the fastest of the three ships and was the first to actually sight the New World. Columbus did however take credit for the sighting. The nickname Pinta means "painted one" and it refers to the ship's appearance.

The Santa Maria

The Santa Maria was the flagship of the voyage and the largest by far, weighing around 100 tons. It was also the slowest of the three ships with dimensions of about 55 feet in length, a 36-foot keel, 18-foot beam and a 9-foot draft. The Santa Maria was a "Nao" or heavily built standard shipping vessel equipped for hauling freight but strong enough to cross oceans albeit at a slow pace. The ship's real name was La Gallega for its place of origin in Spain's northern region of Galicia. The Santa Maria carried Columbus on his voyage but was outpaced by both of the other ships. The Santa Maria had a crew of 39 sailors and it sank off Haiti on Christmas Eve 1492.

The Voyage

Columbus' voyage across the Atlantic was one of greatest navigational errors in history. He mistakenly found two new continents thinking that he had discovered a route to the Far East. Another explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, was responsible for fitting the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria with supplies for their Atlantic voyage. As part of the foodstuffs Vespucci stocked barrels of pickles which were salted for preservation and which turned out to have high levels of vitamin C. The result was an escape from the outbreak of scurvy which had cursed so many voyages of the time. North and South America were later named for this same man. According to The Long Island Press, Columbus has been genetically linked to the origins of syphilis on the European continent. The article also notes that Columbus was an opium addict and that painted images of the explorer are not actually based on his physical appearance but are merely artists' renderings.

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