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Whatever Happened to the Niña, Pinta, or Santa Maria?

Jason Ponic works in the exciting world of Hollywood film and television by day and writes by night.

The three vessels of Columbus.

The three vessels of Columbus.


  • The story is taught all across America. Christopher Columbus, explorer, set sail in 1492 with three ships and discovered the New World. It's a story told so frequently that it becomes more fable than fact.
  • The facts are these: Columbus sailed from Spain searching for a route to the East Indies. Crossing the Atlantic, he ended up landing in the Dominican Republic, an unknown land mass to Europe. Despite 11th Century Vikings landing in North America nearly four hundred years earlier than him, Columbus has since been credited as the discoverer of the Americas.
  • Columbus' armada for that famous voyage consisted of three ships whose names have become as famous as the Mayflower or Titanic; the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria. We know they were tiny, never intended for trans-Atlantic travel. What remains a mystery is what happened to these fabled vessels in the half millennia since the voyage.

The Niña

  • Just because she was the tiniest doesn't mean she was the least liked. In fact, Columbus adored the Niña and named it his favorite. No documentation of her exact design exists. Experts believe her to have been a caravel type trade vessel not more than 50 feet long. Basically built for the Mediterranean Sea, not the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The Niña would be one of two ships that would return to Spain in 1492. Columbus would use her again for his second voyage in 1493. and again for his third in 1498. Afterward, she is lost to history. Only two known records of the Niña's whereabouts exist post-Columbus. In 1500, she was laid up in Santo Domingo, and in 1501 she made a trading voyage to Venezuela. There is no mention of her again.

The Pinta

  • Even less is known about the Pinta's final whereabouts. As the middle child of the three ships, she was neither liked nor disliked by Columbus. The 60-foot vessel would accompany Columbus on his first voyage as the fastest of the trio. Returning to Spain after the mission, she vanished, slipping between the cracks of history. Not one record has been found of her fate. This problem is further compounded by the fact that Pinta wasn't her official name but rather a nickname. With the real name lost, the ship is lost with it.

The Santa Maria

  • At least we know what happened to the Santa Maria. Largest of the three vessels, the Santa Maria served as Columbus' flagship during his fabled voyage. The merchant ship hit the waves for the first time in 1475. While exact measurements have not survived time, crew diaries suggest a length of 62 feet and a tonnage of 150. Despite being the slowest of the trio, the vessel performed well during the crossing. The return voyage ended the vessel's life when she ran aground off the shores of Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Columbus ordered the wreck stripped, and much of her timbers hauled ashore to build a fort.
  • Finding the wreck of the Santa Maria is one of those great Holy Grails of shipwreck hunters. In 2014, explorers believed they found it off the coast of Haiti. Further evidence dated the wreck from the 17th century, three hundred years after Columbus. Given the ship's age and the harsh conditions of salt water, it is unlikely that much or any of it will ever be found.
An anchor of the Santa Maria, one of the only relics still in existence from the three fabled ships. There are no known relics of the Niña or Pinta around.

An anchor of the Santa Maria, one of the only relics still in existence from the three fabled ships. There are no known relics of the Niña or Pinta around.


David on February 04, 2020:

Go Pinta!

helena on January 10, 2020:

thank you!!

me on October 02, 2019:

thank you

Charles Riedel on July 08, 2019:

None of the three ships made it to what is now The United States.

For latinos, America is the continent of North and South America (yes they consider both as one continent).

For latinos, people who live in the US are norteamericanos or estadounidenses.

hi on December 17, 2018:

so cool

reeeeeeeeeeeeeee on November 11, 2018:

Cool information! I haven't heard of this before!

joseph on September 24, 2018:

This Helps

zoey on September 16, 2018:

This is so good

yazi on September 15, 2018:

cool this is really helpful

Rachelle on May 17, 2018:

Aye, donna know wha happened to these ships.

Ashley on April 06, 2018:

What made it to America????? Was it Santa María ???????????? Or Pinta??????? It Niña

not telling on October 31, 2017:

its so good

muna on August 11, 2017:

It will really help me