Santa María (ship)

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Christopher Columbus on Santa Maria in 1492..jpg
Christopher Columbus on Santa María in 1492
Career (Spain) Banner of arms crown of Castille Habsbourg style.svg
Name: Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción
Owner: Juan de la Cosa
Launched: 1460
Struck: December 25, 1492
Fate: ran aground
General characteristics
Class & type: Nao
Displacement: est. 150 metric tons of displacement
Tons burthen: est. 108 tons BM
Length: est. hull length 19 m (62 ft)
est. keel length 12.6 m (41 ft)
Beam: est. 5.5 m (18 ft)
Draught: est. 3.2 m (10 ft)
Propulsion: sail
Complement: 40
Armament: 4 x 90 mm Bombards, 50 mm culebrinas
Notes: Captained by Christopher Columbus himself

La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción (Spanish for The Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception), or La Santa María, was the largest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage. Her master and owner was Juan de la Cosa.


The Santa María was probably a medium sized nau (carrack), about 58 ft (17.7 m) long on deck, and according to Juan Escalante de Mendoza in 1575, the Santa Maria was "very little larger than 100 toneladas" (About 100 tons, or tuns) burthen, or burden,[1][2][3] and was used as the flagship for the expedition. The other ships of the Columbus expedition were the smaller caravel-type ships Santa Clara, remembered as La Niña ("The Girl"), and La Pinta ("The Painted"). All these ships were second-hand (if not third or more) and were not intended for exploration. The Niña, Pinta, and the Santa María were modest sized merchant vessels comparable in size to a modern cruising yacht, and not the largest ships in Europe at the time. The exact measurements of length and width of the three ships have not survived, but good estimates of their burden capacity can be judged from contemporary anecdotes written down by one or more of Columbus' crew members, and contemporary Spanish and Portuguese ship wrecks from the late 15th and early 16th centuries which are comparable in size to that of the Santa Maria; These include the ballast piles and keel lengths of the Molasses Reef Wreck and Highborn Cay Wreck in the Bahamas. Both were caravel type vessels 19 m (62 ft) in length overall, 12.6 m (41 ft) keel length and 5 to 5.7 m (16 to 19 ft) in width, and rated between 100 and 150 tons burden.[4] The Santa María, being Columbus' largest ship, was only about this size, and the Niña and Pinta were even tinier, at only 50 to 75 tons burden and perhaps 15–18 meters (50 to 60 feet) on deck[1] (updated dimensional estimates are discussed below in the section entitled Replicas).


Santa María's anchor on display at Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien

The Santa María was built in Castro-Urdiales, Cantabria, in Spain's north-east. It seems the ship was known to her sailors as Marigalante, Spanish for "Gallant Maria". The naos employed on Columbus's second voyage were named Marigalante and Gallega.[5] Bartolomé de Las Casas never used La Gallega, Marigalante or Santa María in his writings, preferring to use la Capitana or La Nao.

The Santa María had a single deck and three masts. She was the slowest of Columbus's vessels but performed well in the Atlantic crossing. After engaging in festivities and drinking, Columbus ordered that the crew continue sailing to Cuba late into the night. One-by-one the crew kept falling asleep until only a cabin boy was steering the ship which caused the ship to run aground off the present-day site of Cap-Haïtien, Haiti on December 25, 1492, and was lost.[6][7] Realizing that the ship was beyond repair, Columbus ordered his men to strip the timbers from the ship. The timbers from the ship were later used to build a fort which he called La Navidad (Christmas) because the wreck occurred on Christmas Day, north from the modern town of Limonade[8][9] (see map, and the photograph).

The anchor of the Santa María now resides in the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien (MUPANAH), in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.[10]


Columbus's crew was not composed of criminals as is widely believed. Many were experienced seamen from the port of Palos in Andalusia and its surrounding countryside, as well as from the region of Galicia in northwest Spain. It is true, however, that the Spanish sovereigns offered an amnesty to convicts who signed up for the voyage; still, only four men took up the offer: one who had killed a man in a fight, and three friends of his who had then helped him escape from jail.[11]

Despite the romantic legend that the Queen of Spain had used a necklace that she had received from her husband the King as collateral for a loan, the voyage was principally financed by a syndicate of seven noble Genovese bankers resident in Seville (the group was linked to Amerigo Vespucci and funds belonging to Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de Medici). Hence, all the accounting and recording of the voyage was kept in Seville. This also applies to the second voyage, even though the syndicate had by then disbanded.

The crew of the Santa Maria is well-known,[12] albeit in many cases, there are no surnames and the crewman's place of origin was used to differentiate him from others with the same given name.

Crew list[edit]

  • Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus), captain-general[12]
  • Juan de la Cosa, owner and master
  • Pero Nino, pilot
  • Diego de Arana, master-at-arms
  • Pedro de Gutierrez, royal steward
  • Rodrigo de Escobedo, secretary of the fleet
  • Rodrigo Sanchez, comptroller
  • Luis de Torres, interpreter
  • Bartolome Garcia, boatswain
  • Chachu, boatswain
  • Cristobal Caro, goldsmith
  • Juan Sanchez, physician
  • Antonio de Cuéllar, carpenter
  • Diego Perez, painter
  • Lope, joiner
  • Maestre Juan
  • Rodrigo de Jerez
  • Alonso Chocero
  • Alonso Clavijo
  • Andres de Yruenes
  • Bartolome Biues
  • Bartolome de Torres
  • Diego Bermudez
  • Domingo de Lequeitio
  • Gonzalo Franco
  • Jacomel Rico
  • Juan, servant
  • Juan de Jerez
  • Juan de la Placa
  • Juan Martines de Acoque
  • Juan de Medina
  • Juan de Moguer
  • Juan Ruiz de la Pena
  • Marin de Urtubia
  • Pedro Yzquierdo
  • Pedro de Lepe
  • Diego de Salcedo, servant of Columbus
  • Rodrigo Gallego, servant
  • Pedro de Terreros, cabin boy


Replicas of the Santa María

1892 replica
Replica in Columbus, Ohio
1998 replica in Madeira

Little is definitively known about the actual dimensions of this vessel, since no documentation or illustration has survived from that era. Since the 19th century, various notable replicas have been publicly commissioned or privately constructed.


Interest in reconstructing the Santa María started in Spain at around 1890 for the 400th anniversary of Columbus's voyage. An 1892 reconstruction, by the Spanish government, depicted the ship as a nao.[13]

West Edmonton Mall[edit]

A replica was built during Expo 86 and anchored in "Deep Sea Adventure Lake" at West Edmonton Mall. Built at False Creek in Vancouver, the ship was hand-carved and hand-painted and then transported in flatbed trucks across the Rocky Mountains to Edmonton, Alberta.[14]


A replica, depicted as a nao, was commissioned by the city of Columbus, Ohio.[15] It was built by the Scarano Brothers Boat Building Company in Albany, New York who later cut the ship in half and transported it by truck to the Scioto River. The replica cost about 1.2 million dollars. The ship was constructed out of white cedar wood as opposed to an oak wood used on the original to give the ship a long life in the Scioto River and to reduce cost. The main mast was carved out of a single douglas fir tree like the original and was equipped with a top sail (since removed). The ship was built using power tools, with a hull length of 29.6 m (97 ft), keel length 16.1 m (53 ft), beam 7.9 m (26 ft), depth 3.2 m (10 ft) and load 223.8 metric tons of displacement. The foremast is 9.7 m (32 ft) high, the mainmast is 15.9 m (52 ft) and mizzen mast is 10.4 m (34 ft). The replica was declared by Jose Maria Martinez-Hidalgo, a Spanish marine historian, to be the most authentic replica of the Santa María in the world during the ship's coronation on October 12, 1991.[citation needed]

Dana Rinehart, the 50th mayor of Columbus, christened the ship as part of the 500th anniversary of its voyage. The replica remains a tourist attraction.[16]


A functional replica was built on the island of Madeira, between July 1997 and July 1998, in the fishing village of Camara de Lobos. The ship is 22 m (72 ft) long and 7 m (23 ft) wide. In 1998, the Santa María represented the Madeira Wine Expo 98 in Lisbon, where she was visited by over 97 thousand people in only 25 days. Since then thousands more have sailed and continue to sail aboard that Santa María which is situated in Funchal.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Worlds of Christopher Columbus. Cambridge University Press. 1992. pp. 143–145. ISBN 978-0-521-44652-5. 
  2. ^
  3. ^[dead link]
  4. ^ Gould, Richard A. (2000). Archaeology and the Social History of Ships. Cambridge University Press. p. 206. ISBN 9780521567893. 
  5. ^ Pickering, Keith A. "Columbus's Ships". 1997. Accessed 21 May 2012.
  6. ^ Davies, Arthur (1953). "The Loss of the Santa Maria Christmas Day, 1492.". The American Historical Review: 854–865. 
  7. ^ Maclean, Frances (January 2008). "The Lost Fort of Columbus". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved January 24, 2008. 
  8. ^ Haïti histoire - 7 Bord de Mer de Limonade
  9. ^ Article du Florida Museum of Natural History
  10. ^
  11. ^ Hale, Edward Everett. The Life of Christopher Columbus, Ch. IX. 1891.
  12. ^ a b The Columbus Navigation Homepage. "Columbus's Crew". Archived Jul 2011. Accessed 2 Jun 2012.
  13. ^ New York Times, April 26, 1893
  14. ^ WEM Santa Maria page
  15. ^ Pastor, Xavier (1992). The Ships of Christopher Columbus. London: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-84486-014-0. 
  16. ^ Ketcham, Linda. "Santa Maria Virtual Voyage". The Santa Maria Columbus, OH USA. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  17. ^ Santa María de Columbo