Santa Maria (15th century)

Santa Maria (15th century)

Christopher Columbus' three-masted carrack, the Santa Maria was the flagship of his first, landmark voyage.



Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus, America, flagship, lead ship, Niña, Pinta, carrack, indigenous people, New World, The Bahamas, Hispaniola, Lisbon, watercraft, shipping, deck, caravel, running aground, technology, history

Related items


  • Where was Christopher Columbus born?
  • When did Christopher Columbus live?
  • Is the following statement true?\nThe Italian word 'colombo' means pigeon.
  • Which country did Christopher Columbus want to reach by ship (sailing westwards)?
  • Is the following statement true?\nColumbus was living in Portugal between 1476 and 1485.
  • Is the following statement true?\nIn April 1492 John II of Portugal authorised the Indian expedition.
  • Is the following statement true?\nIn April 1492 the Spanish royal couple authorised the Indian expedition.
  • How many ships did Christopher Columbus have on his first 'Indian' voyage?
  • What was the name of Columbus's flagship?
  • Which of these was not one of Columbus's ships on his first voyage?
  • Is the following statement true?\nColombus called the indigenous peoples of the Americas Indians, based on his misconceptions.
  • What did Columbus call the indigenous peoples of the Americas, based on his misconception?
  • Where did Christopher Columbus land for the first time in the New World?
  • Is the following statement true?\nChristopher Columbus soon realised that he had discovered a new continent.
  • How many times did Columbus travel to the New World?
  • What position did the Spanish royal couple offer to Columbus?
  • On which ship did Columbus return from the New World?
  • What is the name of the agreement that divided the world between the Spanish and the Portuguese kings?
  • Where did Christopher Columbus come from?
  • After whom was the New World eventually named?
  • Which one of these plants does NOT originate in the New World?
  • Which one of these plants originate in the New World?
  • Which of these statements is true for the indigenous people of the Americas?
  • Is the following statement true?\nOne consequence of the Treaty of Tordesillas was that Portuguese is spoken in Brazil.
  • Is the following statement true?\nChristopher Columbus lived the rest of his life in Spain in great honour.


Santa Maria

Columbus's flagship

On his first voyage (1492–1493) Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean (towards America) with three ships, two smaller caravels (Nina and Pinta), and the flagship, Santa Maria, a carrack (Columbus used the term 'nao'). The original name of Santa Maria ('Holy Mary') was La Gallega ('The Galician'), probably because the wood (oak and pine) used for the construction of the ship came from the Galician forests. Her owner (and captain at the same time) was Juan de la Cosa.
The three-masted carrack was approximately 25 metres long and 8 metres wide; her carrying capacity was between 180 and 240 tons. The ship did not return to Europe, she ran aground near Haiti and was damaged beyond repair.
Columbus's voyages were supported by the Spanish royal couple, and he travelled in representation of the Christian world, as shown by the ensigns and symbols on the ship.

Christopher Columbus

Upper view


  • main mast
  • mast basket
  • ropes
  • stern mast
  • stern sail
  • stern
  • rudder
  • mainsail
  • hull
  • bow
  • bonnet
  • bowsprit
  • foremast
  • sail crossbar
  • anchor
  • deck
  • topsail
  • flag

Shape and structure of the carrack

The carrack was a Portuguese sailing ship used for both military and commercial purposes in the 15th–16th centuries.
It was a popular ship type, it quickly spread all around Europe. This ship type (called 'nao' in the 15th century) was constructed with two (or more) decks. The hull was not slim (generally 25–30 metres long and 8–10 metres wide); the bulging hull was narrowing upwards and downwards.
Carracks had a clipper-type bow and a transom stern. In the bow, there was a smaller, triangular superstructure, while in the stern a high superstructure could be found with more decks.
This type used to be constructed with two masts, then later with three. The mainmast in the middle of the hull and the foremast found in the bow were square-rigged, while the small mast in the stern was Latin-rigged. The topsail at the top of the mainmast (above the basket) and the bonnet below the foremast also appeared in the carrack.


  • ballast - Its function is to counteract the effects of weight above the water level. The keel also provides ballast.
  • steerage - The part of the ship between the two decks. It contained the sailors' sleeping quarters, as well as part of the cargo and the equipment.
  • deck
  • cargo
  • food/water
  • helm
  • Commander's cabin
  • Niña
  • Pinta

The first voyage of Christopher Columbus

  • Palos, 9 August 1492 Departure from Spain (Niña, Pinta, Santa Maria)
  • Bahamas 11–12 October 1492 Arrival in America
  • Hispaniola, 24–25 December 1492 The Santa Maria wrecked
  • Lisbon, 4 March 1493 Return to Portugal (Niña) Palos (Spain), 15 March 1493

Escort ships

  • Niña
  • Pinta


  • ballast - Its function is to counteract the effects of weight above the water level. The keel also provides ballast.
  • steerage - The part of the ship between the two decks. It contained the sailors' sleeping quarters, as well as part of the cargo and the equipment.
  • deck
  • cargo
  • food/water
  • helm
  • Commander's cabin


The sailing ship Santa Maria was the flagship during Christopher Columbus's first voyage. La Gallega, that is, 'The Galician', was the original name of the ship that rose to fame through the landmark journey of 1492. The name probably originates in Galicia, Northern Spain, where the ship was built. The owner of the ship was Juan de la Cosa. It was a three-masted carrack, approximately 25 metres long and 8 metres wide with a cargo capacity of 180–240 tons. The squarish, capacious carrack is a Portuguese ship type that was used for both merchant and military purposes.

The deck consisted of several levels. During Columbus's voyage, the crew numbered 26 (including the discoverer of the New World and the owner).

Unfortunately, the Santa Maria, sailing under the Spanish flag, did not survive the world-famous journey. The ship ran aground near Haiti on Christmas Day in 1492.
Out of the fleet of three ships on the first voyage, Columbus then appointed one of the caravels, the Niña, as flagship, and returned to Spain aboard her the following year.

Related items

Geographical discoveries (15th-17th century)

Legendary geographical discoveries at the beginning of the Modern Age had not only redrawn maps, but also had a truly diverse impact.

Conquistador (16th century)

Spanish conquerors owed their success to their armour and firearms.

European colonisation of the Americas (up to 1763)

Several European countries joined the conquest of the New World, making America a colourful continent.

Native American settlement (Crow Nation)

The Crow are Native Americans who inhabited the Yellowstone River valley.

Navigational instruments of the past

Several ingenious instruments have been invented over the centuries to help in navigating the seas.

The history of human migration

The migration of large human populations began in Ancient times.

Viking longship (10th century)

These excellent shipbuilders and sailors travelled great distances on the seas and rivers.

American bison

The American bison is the largest land animal in North America.

Chichen Itza (12th century)

The legendary city of the Mayan-Toltec Empire was located on the territory of present-day Mexico.

Colonisation and decolonisation

The colonising powers´ colours were wiped off the map by the nations fighting to regain their independence.

English battleship (18th century)

English sailing ships were among the best ships in the 17th-19th centuries.

Forms of government and official state languages

The animation shows the forms of government and official languages of the world´s countries.

Machu Picchu (15th century)

The ancient Inca city, located in present-day Peru, is a World Heritage Site.

Modern empires

Numerous legendary empires were built (and destroyed) in the course of history.

Naval cannon (17th century)

Cannons also appeared in naval warfare.

Oil tanker

Oil tankers appeared in the late 19th century; today they are among the largest ships.

Polynesian catamaran

Polynesians travelled huge distances with their specially designed boats.

Tenochtitlan (15th century)

The magnificent capital of the Aztec Empire astonished even the Spanish Conquistadors.

The Alhambra in the 16th century (Spain)

The name of this magnificent palace complex originates in Arabic and means 'the red one'.

The countries of the Americas

Learning about the geographic location, capitals and flags of American countries through exercises in three levels of difficulty.

Sailing ships

Schooners, first built in the Netherlands in the 17th century, were mainly used as merchant ships.

Sights of the world

A game about sights around the world.

Bireme (ancient oared warship)

A bireme is a type of ancient warship, with a characteristic pointed bow and two decks of oars, used by many armies.


A sailing vessel with characteristic lugsails used for both military and trade purposes.

Ragusa (Croatia, 16th century)

Today called Dubrovnik, this Croatian city is known for its spectacular architecture and beautiful location.

Submarine operation

Submarines submerge and surface by changing the average density of the hull.

Teotihuacan (4th century)

Majestic even in its ruins, this city was the largest and most populous settlement in the pre-Columbian Americas.

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is an artificial waterway created to shorten shipping routes between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

The Statue of Liberty (New York)

The statue was donated by the French to the USA for the centenary of gaining independence.

Titanic (1912)

RMS Titanic was the largest passenger ship at the beginning of the 20th century.

Traditional Arab sailboat (Sambuk)

The largest type of Arab sailboat, most commonly used as trading vessels in the Persian Gulf.

Added to your cart.