Underwater explorer Barry Clifford said he found sunken off Haiti what he thinks is the wreck of Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ long lost flagship from his first journey to the Americas.
Clifford, working for an operation funded by the History Channel, claims he led a team that found and investigated the wreck in the exact area where Columbus said the Santa Maria ran aground more than 500 years ago on a reef off Haiti's northern coast, 10 to 15 feet beneath the water's surface
Clifford and his team used high tech sonar scanning and metal detection devices to examine the ship’s remains. Most of the ship is intact and excavation will be possible with assistance from the Haitian government, Clifford said.
In what could be one of the most important historical discoveries in history, Clifford said he is confident the wreck is the Santa Maria. It is now up to archeologists to study the wreck to determine if it is the Santa Maria.
Clifford’s crew photographed the wreck in 2003, and those pictures, along with data gathered by computer and other recent dives, have assured Clifford that the wreck is Columbus’.
The ship is the correct size (117 feet long), Clifford said, and stones found at the wreck site that match the type in Spain where the Santa Maria was built were found at the site, CNN reported.
The Santa Maria was the largest of Columbus' small fleet that set sail from Spain in August 1492 under the sponsorship of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I. The expedition sought a westward route from Europe to the resource-rich Far East, but instead landed in the Caribbean in October.
The Santa Maria ran aground in December off the coast of Haiti, and some of the wreck’s planks and provisions were used by fort. Columbus left much of the crew behind and sailed back to Spain in January 1493 with the two remaining ships, the Nina and the Pinta.
Clifford, who is well known for many sea discoveries, including salvaging historic pirate ships around the world, said he plans to go back to Haiti next month with authorities in hopes of determining the next steps.