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

Tue May 13, 2014 8:31pm 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’ 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.

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

But a Haitian official reacted with skepticism on Tuesday, saying it was unlikely that anything remains of the wreck.

"It's a historical and scientific mistake to say that the Santa Maria could have been found under the sea," said Erol Josué, director of Haiti's National Ethnology Office, noting that its timbers were used by survivors to build a small fort, named La Navidad, considered the first European settlement in the New World.


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