Friday, October 01, 2010

Field Trip Friday: The Santa Maria

  In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue....

Five hundred years later, the city of Columbus, Ohio opened the most historically accurate replica of Columbus' flagship in the world. The Santa Maria. This ship floats anchored on the Scioto River in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

My first impression upon seeing that ship was that it couldn't possibly  be to scale. Surely, surely, Columbus and his crew hadn't set off across the Atlantic to an unknown destination in a perilous journey of unknown length in a little wooden ship so tiny. But yes, yes, they had. The ship is exactly to scale.

Here is Sweetling standing on the dock near the ship for a better understanding of just how small this ship was. The Nina and the Pinta were even smaller.

We met up with several families from our co-op, and we took a guided tour of the ship together. Coincidentally, there were about 40 people in our group, and there were 40 men on the Santa Maria during Columbus' voyage. It gave an idea of how little personal space each sailor had. Here are just a few of us crowded on the deck (and most of our group were young children.) The large wooden column on the right is the ship's main mast. The canvas tarp overhead wouldn't have been there in Columbus' day of course, but is there for the comfort of tours and too keep rain out of the main hold (which would have been sealed shut during Columbus' journey, but is kept open for tours on the replica.

Interestingly enough, the hold was not used for anything except the storage of supplies. I always assumed that part of the hold was the crew's quarters. Not so. The main doors of the hold were shut and sealed with tar, and access to the supplies below was made through two tiny square hatches in the steerage (the area underneath the quarterdeck.) Twelve-year old cabin boys were sent down into the pitch-dark, rat and cockroach infested hold to retrieve whatever supplies were required that day. They felt their way along, counting the 'ribs' on the side of the ship to get to the general location of the supply and then feeling inside barrels and crates to identify the contents. Fun job. (The main doors were opened when a large barrel of water or other large object was needed brought up, then the doors were sealed shut again.)

If you're wondering where the sailors slept if not in the hold, the answer is, wherever they could find a bit of deckspace. The main deck of the ship had two somewhat sheltered areas underneath the foredeck and underneath the quarterdeck. You can see a little into one of those spaces in the photo above. No one had a bed on the ship, except for Christopher Columbus, who had a cabin he shared with 8-10 other men (ship's officiers and representatives of the crown) and the owner of the ship, who had a small cot in the ship's steerage.

The steerage is the area underneath the quarterdeck, in the stern of the ship. It contained the ship's cannons, the large wench for raising and lowering the anchor....

....and the ship's tiller. 

And on the edges all that, were poor tired sailors trying to catch a little sleep. Work was always being done on the ship, and there were sailors on duty 24/7, so sleep was snatched whenever one wasn't on shift. For those of you thinking that sailors slept in hammocks (which was me), hammocks were discovered in the new world during one of Columbus' voyages, and weren't put into regular use on ships till sometime after that.

I didn't bother taking pictures of the hold, since it was so small and crowded down there. Nor did I get a picture of the bow of the main deck, under the foredeck, though I wish I would have now. I can't imagine why I didn't. I did snap a picture of the ship's kitchen. Again, in my head I had the notion of a small, cosy little galley. Nope. Here it is.

The kitchen is just a small grill set up on the main deck. It could only be used in good weather on relatively calm seas. Other than that it was just cold hardtack. There was a sample of saltpork hanging underneath the foredeck. It was a unidentifiable twisted, black thing. We learned that the black was mold, and that when you cut off the mold, the meat underneath was "edible". Yum. Of course, you had to soak the meat for a day or two before it could be chewed and eaten. Double yum.

From the main deck are ladders going up to the foredeck, on the bow of the ship, and the quarterdeck, on the stern of the ship.

The quarter deck had the ropes and pulleys to control the main sail (which weighs in at 1,000 lbs when it's dry), as well as what we generally think of as the ships "rigging", the net like ladders which run up to the crow's nest. (Or at least, that's what I think of, landlubber that I am.)

The rigging attaches to the outside side of the ship, just beyond the railing of the quarter deck. I won't even tell you what the bit of rope Toa is playing with was used for. But it's called the "bitter end" if you want to look it up. (But I'll warn you, it has to do with how the sailors went to the 'bathroom' and there wasn't any toilett paper on the ship.) Had we known what it was used for, even though this particular bit of rope was never used that way, even Toa would have been grossed out enough to leave it alone. Even grosser, yes, it gets grosser, was that there was only one of these bitter end bits of rope kept on ship, so everyone got to share.

The quarter deck also had a door to the Columbus's (and the officiers') cabin, which contained his maps, a desk, his navigational tools, and his journals. Columbus kept two journals, one with a greatly reduced set of numbers to represent the distance traveled, which is what he told the crew, and a secret log book in which he recorded the actual distance traveled. (He was afraid of a mutiny if the crew knew how far from Spain they really were.) And of course, the cabin held the only true bed on the ship, though "bed" is a rather loose use of the term. Columbus' bed was just a wooden box with a straw pallet on top. Here's a group of kids perched on the "bed".

The weather was beautiful and the tour of the ship was fascinating, though the thing both children took away from this experience, when I asked them about it separately at a later time, was that they never would have wanted to be a sailor.

So, this is not a photo of a pirate queen in another life.

While we were in Columbus, we took a free tour of the state captial building. Highlights, according to the children were...

...the map room with a huge floor map of Ohio by counties,

....the domed rotunda ceiling

......and, Toa's pick, the golden eagle in the State senate chambers.

(Sweetling liked being able to cast a vote on the issue of the day in the museum, but we don't have a photo of that.)

Mommy liked that a representative from our State senatorial district came down to talk to the kids about how the legislature functions. I liked seeing the Senate chambers...

the chandeliers in which were recreated based on reporters sketches of the original room during a ball attended by President Lincoln and his wife.

In general, I really loved the attention to historical detail that went into a recent renovation of the state house. Throughout the original state house, all the lighting fixtures had a small 'key' on them to represent the gas knobs that were turned to release the fuel in the original gas lighting fixtures. Shortly after the turn of the century, the State courthouse was built next door, furbished with the brand new electrical lights. This building was later 'annexed' to the statehouse, and in the renovation, period style "Edison" lamps were reinstalled.

And of course, no trip to Columbus would be complete without a visit to COSI.

We were away from home twelve and a half hours all told, but it was a great day!

What about you? Have any field trips to share? Want to read where others have gone? Hop on over to Field Trip Friday and join in the fun :)

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