More than half a millennium after Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the physical remains of his three ships — the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria — remain lost to history.
The 15th century explorer landed in the present-day Bahamas on Oct. 12, 1492, ending the pre-Columbian era in the New World.
Despite being the find of a lifetime for curious archaeologists and shipwreck chasers — the three ocean-going sailing ships have never been found, according to National Geographic.
No one knows whether the vessels, two of which eventually returned to Europe, ended up, if they even survived or were eventually wrecked.
If Columbus’ ships sunk in a region like the Caribbean, they would have easily been consumed by a species of wood-eating mollusk, known as “termites of the sea,” the magazine reported.
And 500 years of hurricanes would be no friend to a beached hulk, either archaeologist Donald Keith told the magazine.
“Ships lost in cold, dark, deep water have a much better chance of staying intact and maintaining their ‘time capsule’ value,” he said.
Only the fate of the Santa Maria is known. The largest of Columbus’s fleet, the 150-ton vessel grounded in present-day Haiti on Christmas Day, 1492. Columbus ordered it stripped, using its timbers to construct a village he named La Navidad.
It’s unknown if the Niña and the Pinta, which were smaller caravels, ever returned to the New World after their voyage home, or if they sailed elsewhere.