Columbus' 'Santa Maria', 1492.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Rigged model (scale 1:20) representing the flagship of the expedition that discovered the Americas in 1492. Sponsored by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) sailed with three ships westwards acros the Atlantic in search of an anticipated shorter route to Asia, but actually discovering the West Indies. The ship was an ordinary merchantman requisitioned for the expedition. It was originally owned by Juan de la Cosa, who sailed under Columbus as the Captain of the Santa Maria. Although quite small it was the largest vesel under Columbus' command. In January 1493 the 'Santa Maria' was wrecked on a reef off the coast of Haiti. Columbus made three further voyages to the New World in 1493, 1498 and 1502.