What a bizarre year 2020 is shaping up to be! While rioters in the United States are tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus during Black Lives Matters (BLM) rallies, we’re on our way to learn more about the ships and the location of one of history’s most famous expeditions – the discovery of the new continent by the Europeans.

This blog post covers 125 km (78 miles) from Seville to the PS20 Solar Power Plant (A) and then to Muelle de las Carabelas (B).

PS20 Solar Power Plant

Just 40 minutes west of Seville lies the futuristic looking towers of one of the largest solar power facilities in the world – PS20.

PS20 is a solar thermal energy was completed in 2009 and was the largest until the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in California became operational in 2014.

What makes this solar farm so unique is the solar radiation being reflected onto the 165-metre-high (541 ft) towers.

A field 1,255 mirrored heliostats are computer controlled and steered to reflect the solar radiation onto the receiving tower. This radiation is used to produce steam that is then converted into electricity by a turbine generator.

PS20 produces about 48,000 megawatthours (MW·h) per year. That’s enough to power 4,500 Spanish homes for a year.

After an hour and ten minutes of riding to the southwest, we arrived at a destination that we’ve been excited to see for some time.

Muelle de las Carabelas (Wharf of the Caravels)

Although controversial, few people have been more influential to shaping of the history of the world more than Italian navigator, and explore Christopher Columbus. His first exploration, which left the shores of Palos de la Frontera, Spain, would be the catalist for centuries of exploration, and exploitation, of the American continents.

We were both pretty excited to be here. We never imagined, in our lives, that we would someday be standing in the same spot where such an influential voyage started.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus and his crew set sail from this spot on three ships: the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

The Niña was the nickname of Santa Clara. She was a Caravel styled ship and was the smallest of Columbus’ fleet. Caravels were well known for their sleek, lightweight hull and their remarkable ability to sail into the wind.

Both the three-masted Niña and Pinta used a modified Spanish design called caravela redonda. The forward two masts were rigged with conventional square sails for open-ocean speed, and a aft mast was rigged with a lateen sail for coastal maneuverability.

We were both surprised how small these vessels were. Life aboard them would have been cramped and difficult with a crew of 26 and only 50 feet of deck space on the Niña.

The La Pinta was also a Caravel styled ship but a bit larger (56 feet of deck space) and the fastest of the fleet.

It was aboard the Pinta that the New World was first sighted by Rodrigo de Triana.

La Pinta means “the painted”.

The command ship Santa Gallega, nicknamed Santa Maria, was a carrack styled vessel capable of carrying most of the provisions and crew. She sailed with Columbus, Juan de la Cosa (the master and owner), and a crew of 38 others.

The Santa Maria was the only vessel that carried armament to include four 90 mm bombards and a 50 mm culebrinas.

This ship was designed to ride much deeper in the water than the Pinta and Niña. This may have been one of the causes for it running aground on Christmas Day, 1492.

The ship could not be recovered from the grounding so it was decided that it would be dismantled and used to build the first Spanish settlement – La Navidad, which means “Christmas”.

The three ships of the first voyage – Pinta, Santa Maria, and Niña (left to right).

Besides the full-size replicas of the ships, there are displays that provide a glimpse into what life might have been like for sailers on the 15th century. It was not an easy existence where work was hard, long, and often dangerous.

On October 12, the ships made landfall—not in the East Indies, as Columbus assumed, but on one of the Bahamian islands (modern day San Salvador).

A short walk of two minutes (the actually voyage took 65 days) takes you to the new land with displays showing the animals, dwellings, and the indigenous people who lived there.

A display stand shows how foods, oils, and alcohol was prepared and stored for the journey.

Inside the building, there is a small museum exhibit with models and drawings of each of the ships along with the crew lists.

Upon his return to Spain, Columbus presented the journal to Queen Isabella I. She had it copied, retained the original, and gave a copy to Columbus before his second voyage.

Unfortunately the original log has been lost since 1504. Fortunately, the copy was sufficient to later translate the original Spanish script into English, Italian, French, German, Russian, and other languages.

Also on display is a replica of the Madrid Codex. This is one of three surviving pre-Columbian Maya books that date back to the Mesoamerican era (900–1521 AD). The original is held in the Museo de América in Madrid.

In Conclusion

The voyages of Christopher Columbus are a controversial subject for sure. While we were learning about the life and journeys of Columbus in Spain, there were violent protests, with statues of Columbus being defaced and torn down in the Unites States and the United Kingdom.

Reguardless of your option of Christopher Columbus, there can be little doubt that his journey was one of the most influential events in shaping the history of the world – for better or worse.

Next Blog Post

We’re leaving Spain! We’ve had a great time here but it’s time to experience a new country. We’re riding across the Puente Internacional del Guadiana bridge and into a new country – Portugal!

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🗓: 14 Jul 2020 | 🌍: Provinces of Seville and Huelva, Spain

4 Comments on “A Voyage of Discovery in 1492

  1. What an impressive solar power plant. I love the ships though. History is cool and so much more when right there. Cant wait for your next adventure

  2. The nickname “Niña” (girl) was because its owner’s surname was “Niño” (boy). Waiting for more adventures in Portugal!

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