What’s Santa Maria?

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The Santa María was one of the ships used by Christopher Columbus in his 1492 voyage to the New World. It was a carrack designed to carry cargo, crewed by 40 men, and ran aground in Haiti. Many replicas have been built, but no one knows what the original ship looked like.

The Santa María was a ship used by Christopher Columbus on his 1492 voyage to the New World. Along with the Nina and the Pinta, she put together a fleet of ships that were supposed to sail to Asia, but ended up in the Americas. Many replicas of the Santa Maria have been built around the world, and it’s even possible to sail one, for people interested in getting a glimpse of what the voyage might have been like.

The ship was owned by Juan de la Cosa, an explorer who also served as Captain, and was formally known as the Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción, or “Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception.” It was a carrack, a type of ship specifically designed to carry cargo. The carracks were built with the goal of creating as much space as possible, not necessarily with the goal of crew comfort, maneuverability, or durability, and this proved to be a problem for the Santa Maria.

While this ship may be famous today, no one is really sure what it looked like. Contemporary accounts indicate that she had the classic, rounded stern of a carrack, with a single deck and three masts, but no one thought to paint or draw a picture of the ship before sailing. As a result, the many replicas sailing the high seas are based solely on guesswork and information about similar ships, not the actual configuration of the Santa Maria.

Columbus sailed on the Santa María, making it the flagship of his fleet. The ship was known as “La Gallega” and was crewed by 40 men, most of whom were experienced sailors. Columbus really had a lot of trouble recruiting sailors for his expedition, as many people were very skeptical about the outcome of the voyage, and understandably wary of setting sail through unfamiliar waters.

The Santa María never reached the American continent. Ran aground in what is now known as Haiti and broke up, the timber from her being used to build a fort. Some of the crew were left ashore because they could not be accommodated on the other ships in the fleet, and Columbus promised to pick them up later. Some of the wood from Santa Maria may be floating around somewhere in Haiti, as the early settlers liked to reuse and recycle the building materials they had.

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