Friday we took a trip to Albany to visit replicas of two of Columbus’ three ships, the Pinta and the Nina, docked on the Hudson River. It’s the sort of thing anyone with more than a passing interest in history tends to do (Remember the viking ship? Yes, sort of like that). In case you were wondering about the third ship, the Santa Maria? There isn’t one. A replica, that is. Since it never made it back, no one’s entirely sure what it looked like. Plus Columbus hated it, which is why he spent more time on the Nina, despite its small size. Or because of it. He considered the Santa Maria too big, clumsy, and slow. As for the Pinta, apparently Columbus hated its captain, Martín Alonso Pinzón. Some accounts say this was why the ship was named the Pinta, which translates as something a bit rude.
At this point we might as well address the elephant in the room. Columbus’ crimes against the people he met in the New World are well documented and I’m not going to deny, defend, or rehash them here. Yet there’s a perspective to history you don’t really get from a book, important as books are. Take a good look at the two ships in the photo above, then compare them to the speedboats and small pleasure craft with them at the dock, and you soon realize something important–those ships are tiny. Yet over five hundred years ago about fifty men willingly got into those craft and sailed out into the wild Atlantic Ocean to they knew not what. Say what you will about their moral failings, that took some cojones.