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Replicas of Columbus’ Ships Teach History in Three Dimensions

This full-scale replica of Christopher Columbus ship the Nina serves, with its partner, the Pinta, as a floating museum and classroom, as it proved to students and tourists on a recent weeklong stop in Charleston.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio
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This full-scale replica of Christopher Columbus ship the Nina serves, with its partner, the Pinta, as a floating museum and classroom, as it proved to students and tourists on a recent weeklong stop in Charleston.

Christopher Columbus's historic voyages have come alive through full-size replicas of two of his famous ships, the Nina and the Pinta, which sail the east coast and internal river systems of the United States as floating museums.  On a  recent visit to Charleston, school classes and tourists got a feel for what life would be like on such a ship, called a caravel, on a trans-oceanic voyage.  Romantic, yes.  Fun – rarely, according to volunteer educator Dave Zenk, who relates some of the hazards of sailing the sea on ships of this type: nearly all the men slept on the deck, as the animals were kept below.  Thus, the crew  was exposed to the brutality of the wind, sun and waves washing over the deck day and night for months, plus the possibility of storms as they neared land.   But the ships have great value as teaching tools, says Zenk, as they present living history to young and old, providing experiences that can’t be replicated in a classroom or textbook.