Haiti search for Columbus' Santa Maria to go on despite setback

Wed Oct 8, 2014 6:57pm EDT
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By Amelie Baron

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haiti is determined to continue the search for Christopher Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, after a United Nations report this week found that a wreck discovery did not match the historic vessel.

"We will not leave any trail unexplored to discover what might remain of this famous ship," Haiti's minister of culture, Monique Rocourt, said on Wednesday.

In May, a team led by U.S. marine explorer Barry Clifford said it had identified the 500-year-old wreck of the Santa Maria off the country's north coast near a reef.

The Santa Maria was one of a fleet of three vessels that left Spain in 1492 to look for a shorter route to Asia. The ship is believed to have drifted onto a reef near Haiti on Christmas Day and had to be abandoned.

A UNESCO mission of experts requested by the Haitian government concluded that bronze or copper hull fastenings found at the wreck site indicated shipbuilding techniques of the late 17th or 18th centuries, much later than the Santa Maria's construction.

"There is now incontestable proof that the wreck is from a much later period," according to the report drafted by mission leader Xavier Nieto Prieto, UNESCO announced on Monday.

Nieto Prieto, a former director of Spain’s National Museum of Underwater Archaeology and a leading expert on Spanish shipwrecks, visited the north coast of Haiti last month with Haitian officials.

The report recommended further exploration to find the Santa Maria.   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