Shipwrecked History: Spanish Ships Found In Pensacola Harbor

A hurricane sank a fleet in Pensacola Bay 450 years ago, dooming the first major European attempt to colonize North America, a story that archaeologists are just now fleshing out

On August 15, 1559, the bay now known as Pensacola slowly filled with a curious fleet of 11 Spanish vessels, their decks crammed with an odd mix of colonists and holds filled to bursting with supplies and ceramic jars of olive oil and wine from Cadiz. Aboard the 570-ton flagship Jesus stood the wealthy and ambitious Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano, with direct orders from the king of Spain to establish a permanent colony in La Florida. The rest of the fleet included two galleons, beamy cargo ships known as naos , small barques, and a caravel. North America had never before seen anything like it on this scale.Read more »

Columbus’ La Navidad

The Fate of the New World’s First Spanish Settlement

Two ships of Columbus’ fleet of discovery idled languidly in flat water along the treacherous north coast of the island of Haiti, their sails slack in the luminous starlight of a tropical night. It was Christmas Eve, 1492. Read more »

The Man Behind Columbus

Martín Pinzón of Palos

As you approach the village of Palos de la Frontera, some fifty miles west of Seville in Spain’s Analgesía, the squat little church of San J’orge looms in the foreground at the base of a rocky cliff that overlooks the tidal flats created by the mingling of the rivers Tinto and Odiel. The shallow estuary where the two rivers converge, known of old as the Saltés, is undistinguished scenically, an obscure corner of Spain virtually unknown to American tourists. Read more »

Of Raleigh And The First Plantation

The Elizabethans and America: Part II -- The fate of the Virginia Colony rested on the endurance of adventurers, the financing of London merchants, and the favor of a courtier with his demanding spinster Queen.

In the marvelous 1580s everything was beginning to ripen together in the heat of the tension between England and Spain. Poetry and the drama that had been so sparse and backward were coming to a head with Sidney and Spenser and Marlowe; the first Elizabethan madrigals appear in the very year the war against Spain begins. And this is the moment when the idea of American colonization takes shape and wing—or, perhaps I should say, takes sail.