What if Christopher Columbus' other two ships ran aground?

On Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World, his flagship Santa Maria ran aground in off the coast of Haiti. The ship had to be abandoned because it was beyond repair, and its hull was stripped to repair the two remaining ships, the Pinta and the Nina.

I think his first ship ran aground close to the shoreline of Haiti. Would running aground on a reef far from any land, and on a voyage with only one ship pretty much mean you’re stranded in the middle of an ocean. Did Columbus prepare rafts/lifeboats in the case all ships were down, or have any means of rescue and communication with home (Spain)? I’ve heard in the media about a cruise ship that ran aground around two miles off the coast of Grand Bahama, the largest of the Bahamas islands with 2,550 passengers. Tugboats were needed to pull the ship off and get it safely ashore. I did a quick Google search for ships running aground around the area where Columbus sailed during his voyages to the Americas, and found reports of numerous ships, even small boats and ferries, running aground.

Do you think the Santa Maria running aground was viewed as a disaster by Columbus and his crew, knowing that it could happen again and that they didn’t know how deep the waters were? I mean, if you look at the Atlantic Ocean just next to the Caribbean Sea, there are so many shallow water banks that I feel Columbus and his crew cheated death almost…

Do such reefs exist? I was under the impression that most ocean is deep and clear of underwater obstruction, except near land.

The Santa Maria ran aground at night because the helm had been entrusted to a boy who did not know how to steer. The ship was close enough to land that all hands were able to get ashore, most likely using the ship’s boats. If the ship had run aground on a reef or rock out of sight of land, they could also have used the ship’s boats, but would have been in more trouble since they might not know the shortest distance to safety.

Since the Pinta was exploring separately when the Santa Maria went down, the only other ship available was the much smaller Nina, which didn’t have room for all the men. Therefore Columbus built a fort with the timbers of the Santa Maria and left a contingent of volunteers behind. (When he returned the following year, he found the settlement had been wiped out by the Indians, no doubt due to the castaways making themselves obnoxious with demands for gold, food, and women.)

On Columbus’s fourth and final voyage he was shipwrecked on the coast of Jamaica when his two remaining ships sank because they were leaking from damage by shipworms. He wasn’t able to send word to Hispaniola for some time because it was too difficult for the canoes they obtained from the natives to navigate the channel between the two islands. He spent a year stranded on Jamaica.

Given this, if Columbus had lost all his ships on the initial voyage he would have had tremendous problems returning to Spain if it were possible at all. However, it’s possible that given time they could have built one or more new ships capable of the return voyage, especially if they were able to scavenge the nails and other critical materials from the original ships. But at best it would have been a long shot.

It was certainly viewed as being very perilous. And in the event it ended up being fatal to a good part of the crew even though they initially made it ashore.

Quite a few of the initial exploring ships disappeared without a trace, no doubt due to similar disasters.


From that link;

“More recently, in 2005 the submarine USS San Francisco (SSN-711) ran into an uncharted seamount about 560 kilometers (350 statute miles) south of Guam at a speed of 35 knots (40.3 mph; 64.8 km/h), sustaining serious damage and killing one seaman”

That’s gotta hurt. Dead stop from 40mph.

A bit surprised something so recent. I figured they’d done a better job of mapping the sea bed by then.

Yeah, if all 3 of Columbus’ ships had run aground, chances are that would be the end of the expedition and we’d be hailing some Spanish expedition hitting the coast of South America or English expedition hitting Newfoundland as the “Discovery of America”. Then there’d be Discovery Channel shows about “Whatever happened to that Columbus fellow”.

Interesting. I never knew about such.

But both this and the oneSan Francisco hit would not have bothered Columbus, I think: they are 50 to 200 feet deep; I think his ships could have sailed right over them without problems. Only more modern ships are big enough or go deep enough to hit them.

Besides the fact that they are in the Indian & Pacific oceans, not the Atlantic. Are there any such in the Atlantic?

Such things were not all that uncommon. I read the Voyages of Captain Cook a few months back and they had a couple of very close calls with only minor damage and at least once where they barely made it to shore and spend a fair amount of time patching up the ship.

Of course again, that was in the Pacific.

If all Columbus’ ships ran aground, Spain would consider he’d dissappeared without a trace - which, given the track record of just one crew, he probably would. Someone else would get the credit, we’d be celebrating Amerigo day instead of Columbus day, and the new world would be named after Amerigo.

The Serranilla Bank of the Caribbean is almost entirely submerged… parts of it just barely under the wave. The few islets are small and you can be on the bank but well out of sight of land.