Shipwreck Off Haiti Coast Could Be Remains Of Columbus' Santa Maria
May 13, 2014

Shipwreck Off Haiti Coast Could Be Remains Of Columbus’ Santa Maria

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

One of the three most important ships in American history, the Santa Maria, has apparently been found off the coast of Haiti, according to claims from renowned archeaologist Barry Clifford.

“All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria,” Clifford told The Independent.

According to historical accounts, the Santa Maria ran into a coral reef off the coast of the island of Hispanola on Christmas Eve 1492. As the ship sank to the bottom of the Caribbean, the crew loaded its cargo onto the expedition’s two remaining ships: the Nina and the Pinta. The entire expedition then set sail back to Spain.

“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 said.

The shipwreck itself was actually discovered in 2003, but the remains had been misidentified, Clifford noted. The archeaologist said he realized the shipwreck is the Santa Maria one night after extensive research on 15th-century cannons.

"I woke up in the middle of the night and said, 'Oh my God,'" Clifford told CNN.

Several weeks ago, Clifford returned to the wreck for a non-invasive investigation, taking photographs and measuring aspects of the wreck. Unfortunately, some items from the site had been looted since the 2003 investigation – including the ship’s cannons.

The 2003 investigation has actually provided some support for identifying the ship as the Santa Maria, as archeaologists working on the project have claimed that Christopher Columbus’ fort was built nearby. The site also appears to match historical accounts of Columbus’ initial voyage, including accounts of the Santa Maria’s sinking.

Over the past several years, a team led by Clifford has used magnetometers, sonar and diving expeditions to investigate and discount more than 400 sites that could be the final resting place of Columbus’ flagship.

“We’ve informed the Haitian government of our discovery – and we are looking forward to working with them and other Haitian colleagues to ensure that the site is fully protected and preserved,” Clifford told the Independent. “It will be a wonderful opportunity to work with the Haitian authorities to preserve the evidence and artifacts of the ship that changed the world.”

“I am confident that a full excavation of the wreck will yield the first ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbus’ discovery of America,” he added.

Charles Beeker, an underwater archeaologist at Indiana University, told CNN that the site “has attributes that warrant an excavation.”

"Barry may have finally discovered the 1492 Santa Maria,” Beeker said.

“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,” Clifford said.

If the shipwreck does turn out to be the Santa Maria, it would not be the archeaologist’s first major find. In 1984, he found the Whydah – considered to be the only confirmed pirate shipwreck.