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Reflections on a new crossing.

The world is full of vast expanses which beckon humankind to venture forth through valleys, over mountains and across uncharted waters. In our many journeys, there have been a few that were remarkable because they were wholly new, performed by a different sort of people willing to go a little further over the edge of the known, with new tools, new theories. When they succeed, the rest of us celebrate their achievement. We celebrate their return home and hundreds of years later we continue to relive it. Such a journey was that of Christopher Columbus and his crew. Never before had sailors been willing to travel so far into unknown oceans.

In recognition of this great accomplishment and of the spirit of discovery, the Spanish government, in conjunction with the Navy, the National Quintcentennial Commission of Spain, and numerous other organizations undertook a tremendous task--to rebuild with complete historical accuracy the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. With extensive research beginning in October of 1983, the Quintcentennial Commission was able to recreate the Caravels in their original shapes and fit them with handmade sails, authentic rigging and navigational equipment. The actual construction took place between 1988 and 1989 in three different locations--the Santa Maria was built in Barcelona, the Pinta on Isla la Cristina, and the Nina in Cartagena. After an investment of over seven million dollars and painstaking attention to detail, the Caravels were ready to embark on their European tour. During 1990, they cast anchor in twenty-two cities in the Old World, attracting over 2 million spectators. On October 13, 1991, the three ships set sail from Palos de la Frontera--the port at Huelva from which Columbus departed--to recreate that original voyage which united East with West. The departure followed a week of official ceremonies attended by a cast of thousands, including Prince Philip of Spain. Two and a half months later the Caravels reached the New World, landing in San Juan, Puerto Rico on December 20. They then sailed on to the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas in February, 1992. The tour of the eastern shore of the United States was inaugurated in Miami, Florida, on February 15, with great hoopla. Over five thousand vessels joined the replicas as tens of thousands of onlookers cheered from the shore. The twenty-one port U.S. tour--organized and financed by the Washington, D.C.-based Spain '92 Foundation--included stops in Corpus Christi, Galveston/Houston, New Orleans, Tampa, St. Augustine, Charleston, Norfolk, Annapolis, Baltimore, New York and Boston. Throughout the trip, the multinational crew has had the opportunity to visit museums and monuments and forge new friendships. At the same time, U.S. audiences have gained first-hand knowledge of these ships that "sailed out of history." In every port, crowds have lined up to come aboard and mingle with the crew.

It has not yet been determined whether the Caravels will remain in the New World or return to the Old. Several U.S. museums and institutions have expressed interest in acquiring the ships for their permanent collections. Whatever their final destination, one thing is clear: their voyage has deepened our appreciation for the conviction and daring which characterized our ancestors and which carries us forward into new ages of discovery. In this sense, the new Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria have initiated a true re-encounter.

Photojournalist, Hillary Isaacs, sailed on the Santa Maria for ten days. The only woman aboard, she kept a daily journal, which has been exerpted for this article.
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Title Annotation:Spain's caravels
Author:Isaacs, Hillary
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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