Shipwreck off Haiti could be Columbus’s Santa Maria, explorers say

Tue May 13, 2014 5:43pm EDT
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By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - A shipwreck found off the north coast of Haiti could be the 500-year-old remains of the Santa Maria, which led Christopher Columbus’s famed voyage to the New World, according to a team of marine explorers.

"All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus' famous flagship, the Santa Maria," Massachusetts marine investigator Barry Clifford said in a press release on Tuesday.

"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.

Clifford, 68, who led a reconnaissance expedition to the site last month, will hold a press conference Wednesday morning at the Explorers Club in New York to announce the discovery.

Clifford said he would like the ship to stay in Haiti as part of a permanent exhibition to help the country's struggling tourism industry.

The wreck was discovered in about 10 to 15 feet of water near a reef, and matches the length of the 115-feet keel of the Santa Maria, according to the exploration team.

Its geographical location coincides with Columbus' description of where it sank, and stones found at the wreck site match a quarry in Spain that provided ballast for Columbus's ships, the team said.

"The size of the wreck is consistent with the dimensions of the Santa Maria," said Dirk Hoogstra, general manager of the History channel TV network which funded the latest expedition to the wreck site.   Continued...

A replica of Christopher Columbus' caravel Santa Maria is shown in this circa 1892 handout photo provided by the United States Library of Congress on May 13, 2014.   REUTERS/U.S. Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters