The Santa Maria was the main ship of Christopher Columbus, and with it he reached the American continent. America had been discovered by European seafarers earlier than that, but before Columbus, this continent was almost completely unknown. One can only make suppositions regarding the size of the ship. It can be assumed that the ship was about 25 m long and 8 m wide. The Santa Maria was most probably a “karacke”, a widespread sailing ship’s model towards the end of the Middle Ages. It was a three-master, whose shape was probably very similar to the “Hanse-Kogge”, which was very widespread at that time, but much larger. The Santa Maria was the most famous representative of this ship model. However, Columbus is said to have stated in his log books that the ship was completely unsuitable for that expedition.
Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa in 1451. From 1480 he first worked as a cartographer and for that reason studied sea maps and log books. In that way he developed a plan for his first expedition. It was his aim to discover a sea route in westerly direction to India and East Asia. He tried to win the support of several states to assist his plans, but was rejected. It was only in 1486 that the Spanish king showed interest in his plan. At the beginning of 1492 there were the first negotiations. In the meantime, Columbus was supported financially by the Spanish king so that no other state could entice him away. The negotiations turned out to be difficult, because Columbus was by no means modest. As service in return, he laid claim to the title of an admiral and viceroy over the discovered areas. In April 1492 the negotiations were then completed successfully.
In August 1492, Columbus set sail with the Santa Maria accompanied by two other ships. Because of repairs to one of the accompanying ships, he had to make a month-long pause on the Canary Islands. When the journey was continued, the expedition was threatened by mutinies of the sailors. In October 1492 Columbus and his crew reached the Bahamas and on the continuation of the journey they discovered Cuba and “La Isla Espagnola”, the present Dominican Republic. The Santa Maria ran aground on this island in December 1492. Houses were built out of the remains of the ship, and Columbus named the newly-made settlement “La Navidad” (Spanish for “Christmas”). La Isla Espagnola became Spain’s first colony. Columbus was appointed its first governor. In January 1493 Columbus returned to Spain with the remaining ships. Part of the crew stayed there as settlers.
Shortly after his return from his first journey, he started to prepare for his second journey. But he never lost sight of his aim to find a sea route to India and to discover a country with huge gold resources. Columbus went on four journeys in which he lost a total of nine ships.