On May 30, 1498, Christopher Columbus left Sanlúcar, Spain with six ships on his third trip to the New World. In addition to soldiers and settlers, he was accompanied by Bartolomé de Las Casas, who later published partial transcripts of Columbus’ logs.
Columbus sailed first to the Portuguese island of Porto Santo, then to Madeira, arriving at Gomera in the Canary Islands on June 19. Here, the fleet split into two squadrons: three ships sailed directly for Hispaniola with supplies for the colonists. The other three (Santa María de Guía, Vaqueños, and Correo), commanded by Columbus, were on a mission of exploration to find any lands south of the known islands in the Indies.
The fleet first sailed to the Cape Verde Islands, in an unsuccessful effort to obtain cattle. On July 4, Columbus then sailed southwest, but by the July 13 had made only 120 leagues. After drifting eight days in the Doldrums, winds returned on the July 22, and Columbus set course west. By the morning of July 31 water was running short, so he decided to steer directly for Dominica, which was discovered on the second voyage. After changing course to north by east, they sighted an island at noon and because the island had three hills, Columbus named it Trinidad, after the Holy Trinity.
The fleet obtained water on the south coast of Trinidad, and saw the coast of South America. Columbus explored the waters between South America and Trinidad from August 4 to August 12 and explored the mainland of South America, including the Orinoco River. Because of the way the water was churned up as it entered the sea, he called the place Boca del Drago, or Dragon’s Mouth. Realizing that the enormous volume of fresh water was evidence of a continent, rather than in island, Columbus landed. Columbus and his crew were the first recorded Europeans to set foot on South American soil. The natives were friendly and gladly exchanged pearls for European trinkets. A few days later, the fleet reached the Island of Margarita, where Columbus found the natives fishing for pearls where he again bartered for pearls.
Columbus’ ill-health forced a return to Santo Domingo in August, cutting short further exploration of the northern coast of South America and the nearby islands. The settlements had not fared well in his several year absence. Columbus returned to a city and island rife with struggle. There was a revolt led by the Alcade Mayor Francisco Roldan, whom Columbus had appointed. On November 21, 1498, an agreement was made between Columbus and Roldan to provide the rebels safe harbor back to Spain, but left Roldan in place as mayor.
Columbus continued to govern, but with his ill-health, decided that a return to Spain would be better than remaining as Governor of the Indies. His seven year reign had not gone particularly well, with mistreatment of the natives by him and his brothers, as well as unrest. On August 23, 1500, Francisco de Babadilla arrived from Spain to take over as governor. He arrested Columbus, removing him from his posts, and shipped him and his brothers back to Spain on October 1, 1500. The three were imprisoned for six weeks before being released by King Ferdinand. The King and Queen agreed with the contention by Columbus that those who conspired against him were doing so for their own benefit. Ultimately, the viceregal authority of Columbus was indefinitely suspended, the office was reduced to a mere title, and finally fell into disuse.
As an added insult, the Portuguese had won the race to the Indies: Vasco da Gama returned in September 1499 from a trip to India, having sailed east around Africa.
No ships were lost on 3rd voyage. What happened to them is not known, but they probably sailed back to Spain.