The smallest of Christopher Columbus’s three ships on his first voyage to the New World, caravel Nina became the Great Navigator’s flagship following the wreck of Santa Maria on the coast of Hispaniola in 1493 and carried him back to Spain.
(ScStr: dp. 420 t.; l. 137’; b. 26’; dr. 9’10”; s. 10.35 k.; cl. Palos)
Nina, a 4th rate iron screw steamer, was laid down by Reaney, Son, and Archbold, Chester, Pa., in 1864; launched 27 May 1865; delivered at New York Navy Yard 26 September 1865; and placed in service as a yard tug at the Washington Navy Yard 6 January 1866, Ensign F. C. Hall commanding that ship and sister tugs Primrose and Rescue.
Nina operated as a yard tug for the Washington Navy Yard and Naval Gun Factory through May 1869 and was then converted to a torpedo boat. She commissioned 31 March 1870, Lt. Godfrey Hunter in command, and then sailed for Newport R.I., arriving at the Naval Station 14 April. The ship served as a torpedo boat at Newport through 1883 refitting in May 1884 for special service, and next operated from August to October salvaging the wreck of sidewheel gunboat Tallapoosa sunk in Martha’s Vineyard Sound. From 1885 to 1889, Nina served in various capacities at New York Navy Yard, and then returned to Newport from 1890 to 1891.
The converted tugboat returned to New York Navy Yard in 1892 to resume her original duties, continuing her yard work and towing services there for a decade. On 8 October 1902, she commissioned as tender and supply vessel to the Torpedo Boat Flotilla during winter manuevers in the Caribbean. The ship returned to New York 15 March 1903 and decommissioned 6 days later, once again taking up her yard towing chores. Nina was next loaned to the Lighthouse Department to verify aids to navigation near Puerto Rican waters to protect the Fleet conducting Winter manuevers from October 1903 to April 1904. She recommissioned 9 September 1905 for special service with the Board of Inspection and Survey, Rockland, Me.
Nina was ordered converted into a submarine tender 28 December 1905. On 25 May 1906, she arrived at the Newport Naval Torpedo Station, and, following a year’s service, was assigned as tender for the 1st Torpedo Flotilla. For the next four years, she served with the Atlantic Fleet’s infant submarine force in its pioneer coastal operations from Newport to Annapolis and Norfolk. From 1 December 1908 to 22 February 1909, she participated in the great Review in Hampton Roads following the return of the Great White Fleet from its globe girdling cruise and joined submarines in exercises off the Virginia coast.
At 0630, 6 February 1910, Nina departed Norfolk for Boston and was last sighted off the Capes of the Chesapeake in the midst of a gale. She was never heard from again. The warship was declared lost and struck from the Navy List 15 March 1910, the 30 crewmen and one officer on board being listed as having died on that day. Her loss is one of the continuing mysteries of the sea.