M. Running rigging to the sails 94
N. Ordnance 102
P. The caravel Pinta 106
Q. The caravel Niña Ill
R. The comparative sail plans 117
I have expressed my gratitude to some of the most important contributors to the creation of this book in the Foreword, but there are other friends and institutions also without whom the project could not have been completed. Amongst these, I would like to thank:
The management and staff of the Museu Maritim at Barcelona, for help in searching out material from the archives, particularly photographs; the Director of the Museo Naval at Madrid, who allowed me, some years ago, to take photographs at the museum, and also allowed the use of material from books and documents in the museum; my friend Manuel Ripoll, who supplied an old photograph of Guillen's Santa Maria (his father, a doctor in the Navy, was the ship's doctor aboard the replica); and Antonio Jaen, draughtsman, who was able to provide me with a copy of a lines plan which was no longer in print. His father had drawn the plans of the Santa Maria and the caravels for the Martinez-Hidalgo project.
It will rapidly become clear to the reader that this book does not fit easily into the pattern set by the other titles in the Anatomy series. Each previous volume was written by a specialist possessing full knowledge of the vessel under examination. The authors were able to base their descriptions on archival material like plans or on contemporary drawings or photographs. Even in the case of Susan Constant, by Brian Lavery - the subject nearest in time to Columbus's Santa Maria - the author was able to support his statements in part by reference to construction standards of the period.
This is, unfortunately, far from being the case with the ships of Christopher Columbus. There is now no technical information available on how ships were built in Spain in the fifteenth century. The Itinerario de Navegación by J Escalante de Mendoza (published in 1575 - 83 years after Columbus's voyage) contains only rules of a general character dealing with the materials used in shipbuilding, such as the timber most suitable for hull and masts or the appropriate vegetable fibres for manufacturing rigging and sails; the author gave no information at all on the dimensions of parts of the hull nor on the standing or running rigging.
Shipbuilding treatises in which technical standards are recorded do not appear in Spain until about a century after Columbus. The first was the Instrucción Nautica para Navegar by Diego Garcia del Palacio in 1587. In 1611, 24 years later, the Arte para Fabricar, Fortificar y Aparejar Naos by Thome Cano was published. This book represents an early attempt to trace the evolution of the concepts underlying the construction of galleons.
It is against this lack of hard contemporary information that any attempt to reconstruct the ships of Christopher Columbus has to be seen. If a large measure of agreement has generally been reached in the past century over the design and construction of the two smaller ships, the Niña and the Pinta, the same cannot be said of the Santa Maria. Interpretations of the design, construction and even basic ship type of Columbus's flagship have differed widely since 1892. It is therefore the case that an attempt to describe the Santa Maria only in terms of the current reconstruction, built in Spain to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the European discovery of America, is clearly inadequate. To set this reconstruction in its context, the replica built by Martinez-Hidalgo and the two official versions built in Spain on previous occasions have also to be examined.
Furthermore, a brief summary of the origin and development of the caravel is necessary. Not only were the other two ships of Columbus's fleet on his first voyage vessels of this type, but also the caravel as a type had played a key role in the Portuguese exploration of the African coasts in the years prior to Columbus's voyage. In this sense the development and use of the caravel can indeed be said to have made possible the European discovery of America.
The lack of reference material forced the designers of the earlier reconstructions of Columbus's ships to base the lines of the Santa Maria on engravings or drawings in nautical charts of the period. Only on the rigging were the three designers in agreement, for an entry in Columbus's logbook gives details which leave no room for doubt. The tonnage and length of the earlier reconstructions of the Santa Maria were also based on an entry in the logbook in which the ship's launch is mentioned, but the references were misinterpreted both by the French archaeologist Auguste Jal and later by Fernández-Duro, followed by Guillén.
The only three-dimensional testimony to fifteenth-century ships is an exvoto dated 1450, whose history will be discussed below, as far as it is known. Its proportions - which could be exaggerated, as they do not show the generally accepted ratio between length and breadth - have not been used to determine the shape of the current reconstruction of the Santa Maria as a nao, but it was the source of important information on the system of shipbuilding in the Mediterranean at the time, and also on the peculiarities of particular parts of the structure of contemporary ships, which could not be deduced from graphic evidence of the period.
Guillén's thesis that the Santa Maria was a caravel has now been rejected by historians and archaeologists of all nations. Martinez-Hidalgo, in a section of his fully documented book Las Naves de Colón - today considered the best argued exposition of the category of ship to which the Santa Maria belonged - considers her to have been a nao. He bases his theory on the fact that Columbus made no fewer than eighty-one references to the ship as such in his logbook.
It is with pleasure that I record my thanks to José María Martinez-Hidalgo y Terán for the great help and encouragement which I have received from conversations with him, as well as for his permission to draw on the contents of his book, some passages of which have been incorporated into this work.
Another part of this book is based on a series of articles of mine which were published in the Spanish magazine Yate y Motonautica in 1977, and later translated into English by that excellent model builder and good friend the late Sydney J Mostyn of Blackpool, England.
The revision of the present work, written in my poor English, was undertaken by my old friend Robert James Kenyon.
Perhaps the most important contribution to the creation of this book was that of my wife Nuria. She had patience enough to put up with my many hours of concentration both at the drawing table and in front of the word processor, the only member of the team to offer less than total support.
Xavier Pastor Mallorca, October 1991
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