La Niña, La Pinta and the Santa Maria

Here’s one you definitely should already know. But just in case…

Christopher Columbus, sailing for Spain, led a fleet of three small ships on his first voyage seeking the West Indies in 1492, when he accidentally discovered the Americas. The expedition consisted of two caravels, La Niña and La Pinta, and one carrack, the command ship Santa Maria.

Spanish ships at the time were usually named after saints, so Nina and Pinta were only nicknames. La Niña’s real name was the Santa Clara, while La Pinta’s real name is unknown. The Santa Maria’s nickname was Marigalante.

On 3 August 1492 they sailed from Palos de la Frontera on the south coast of Spain, stopping on 12 August in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa for final preparations. On 6 September they sailed west across the Atlantic. The “new world” was first sighted by Rodrigo de Triana from La Pinta, the fastest of the three ships, on 12 October 1492, when he spied the Bahamian island of Guanahani. The expedition made landfall in the Bahamas the same day.

The Santa Maria foundered on a coral reef off Haiti on 25 December 1492. The fates of La Niña and La Pinta are not recorded.

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