HANNIBAL (WGEM) -- Over 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain with three ships, searching for a quicker and pirate-free route to Asia.
What he found was the Americas. And now, replicas of two of those ships, the Niña and the Pinta, are docked right here in Hannibal.
Columbus built his ships for discovery. These were built for education.
"Educate people about the Age of Discovery and about these ships," said Deckhand Cathy Thompson.
"So you can appreciate how they traveled here into places unknown," said Dr. David Points.
Built by the Columbus Foundation, these ships were constructed using many of the same techniques used in the 15th Century. And while they have some modern equipment like engines, they can and do travel by sail, and were built to be as accurate as possible.
"Columbus was a very detailed writer, and in his logs, he wrote very detailed descriptions of the ships," said Thompson.
The first thing most visitors notice is how small the ships are. The crew says that's partially because Columbus' ships were never meant for such a long journey.
"The Niña and the Pinta, they're caravels," said Thompson.
"Living on the ships, the accommodations were small," said Points.
"Caravels were a kind of ship that was designed to get close to shore, for trading with the natives and exploring. They weren't designed to cross over a whole big ocean, but once they got to the land, they were very useful."
And while Columbus' crew was paid in Spanish coins, much of the replicas' crew isn't paid at all.
"I'm an excited volunteer."
"I was a teacher."
"After the semester you take some time off, and you find some research projects."
"I wanted to try something different. I always liked traveling, and what a unique way to see the United States."
"We don't have an appreciation for what people who were before us experienced."
"Ugh. I'm always learning. All the time."
And that learning experience is something the volunteers say is worth sharing.
"Children have a right to appreciate the history, as well as parents and other educators," said Points. "So when you can put a hands-on opportunity for young people, this is a blessing. It develops their history, maybe their interest in history, and gives them an appreciation to maybe explore even further."
The replicas of the ships aren't currently open for tours, due to being stuck in Hannibal because of high water. The next planned stop was in Keokuk, but that will likely be cancelled. The ships are scheduled for a stop in Burlington this August.
For more information on the history of the ships, how they were constructed, and a schedule of their stops, click here.
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