Santa Maria Wreck: US Explorer Says He's Found Columbus' Abandoned Ship

Image: Santa Maria Wreck: US Explorer Says He's Found Columbus' Abandoned Ship

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 01:39 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Underwater explorer Barry Clifford is claiming that he has found the Santa Maria wreck just where Christopher Columbus said he left it marooned off the coast of Haiti in 1492.

The Santa Maria was the lead ship of Columbus' small fleet that sailed from Spain in August 1492 with the help of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I. The Santa Maria accidentally ran aground off Haiti's coast, leaving Columbus to travel back to Spain with the remaining two ships, the Nina and the Pinta, in January of 1493, according to CNN.

Clifford, who first investigated the site in 2003, told CNN he revisited it two years ago after determining that an archaeologist back then had "misdiagnosed" a cannon found at the scene.

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"This is the ship that changed the course of human history," Clifford told the news website. "It is the Mount Everest of shipwrecks for me."

Clifford told The Independent that he used the location of a fort Columbus' crew built on the island along with information in Columbus's own diary to figure out the location where he first found the cannon and other artifacts.

"All the geographical, underwater topography, and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus' famous flagship, the Santa Maria," he said. "The Haitian government has been extremely helpful — and we now need to continue working with them to carry out a detailed archaeological excavation of the wreck."

Clifford told The Independent that he believes the site will eventually yield the first archaeological evidence of Columbus' arrival to the Americas.

"Ideally, if excavations go well and depending on the state of preservation of any buried timber, it may ultimately be possible to lift any surviving remains of the vessel, fully conserve them, and then put them on permanent public exhibition in a museum in Haiti," he said.

"I believe that, treated in this way, the wreck has the potential to play a major role in helping to further develop Haiti’s tourism industry in the future."

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