Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Санта-Мария - The 1973 "Моделист конструктор" Santa Maria

A few years back, whilst looking for additional information on Heinrich Winter's research of Columbus' ships, I happened upon a website, since gone, that featured the Russian text of his book "Die Kolumbusschiffe von 1492" ("The Ships of Columbus of 1492"). On the same page was a set of drawings of the Santa Maria, also in Russian, that I assumed to be associated with Winter's work. 
Nothing could be further from the truth. 
Until this point, it had been assumed that Winter's work had simply served as an aggregate for the various studies. His book shows some of the various interpretations. But I could find no other data verifying that this Santa Maria was in fact his.
I decided to approach the problem once again, this time using Google Image Search, and I discovered something. 
The image was not from Winter's work after all, but a Soviet era hobbyist magazine, "Моделист конструктор" (Modelist Constructor), in the 5th edition for 1973. The article was titled "И ВСЕ-ТАКИ — КОЛУМБ!" ("And Yet - Columbus!")

A little more searching led me to a site where I could download a DjaVu version of that issue. Finally, I had found my source.
The article, written by "Б Тимофеев" (B Timofeyev) had plenty to say about the actual journey, but apparently very little about the ships themselves, from what I could discern. In other words, looking at the Russian text, I saw very few numbers. Searching further, I discovered a page with the text that allowed me to use Google Translate. 
Within the article, there is scant information on the origin of this interpretation, how they came up with this design, nor what evidence they followed. It does mention that the "Santa Maria" was not a caravel, but a "hundred ton carrack" (стотонную каракку). Beyond that, no dimensions were given. 
Looking at the drawing, which I find to be rather well done if a little unclear, I immediately was reminded of the second version of Monleon's interpretation, with some adjustments. 
The rake of the masts is certainly similar. The shape of the forecastle is strikingly similar as well, as are the placements of the fender cleats and wales, though there is one wale on the newer design. The real differences are in the stern and sails. The stern on the Monleon II version is flat, whilst the "Моделист конструктор" version (henceforth the MK version) has a round tuck, perhaps a bit more appropriate. The Monleon II version has a larger lateen mizzen and a trapezoidal topsail, whilst the MK version has a smaller lateen mizzen and rectangular topsail. 
Dimensions wise, they are very similar - 

Monleon II - 
Beam - 7.86m
Keel - 19.6m
Length between perpendiculars - 23.72m

MK (note - all dimensions are estimates derived from the drawings) -
Beam - 7.8m
Keel - 19m
Length between perpendiculars - 24m. 

In many ways, the MK version is like an evolved Monleon II interpretation. Unfortunately, there is little else to be found about it. I would truly like to know what sources they used, and how they produced this intriguing interpretation of a late 15th century Iberian nautical workhorse, the nao. 

The last page of the "Моделист конструктор" Columbus article has this wonderful illustration of their Santa Maria underway. In my opinion, it certainly is lovely. 


  1. Hello Robert!
    The materials used by the author of the article from the magazine "Моделист Конструктор", most likely were taken from available foreign sources. The author lived in a country which was fenced off from the world and his drawings can't be called a serious investigation, but only his personal interpretation.
    About ten years ago a Russian modeller of great skill executed the model for these drawings. Here you can see photos of the model:
    Best wishes!

  2. Andrew,
    Thank you for the information! That's a nice model. I guess this is why the MK model looks so much like the Monleon version, in that he used what resources he had.
    The model looks as though he borrowed some from the Martinez/Hidalgo work as well, but regardless, that is a great looking model.
    - Robert