A shipwreck recently discovered near Haiti, very well could be the long-lost shell of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ flagship from his first voyage to the Americas.
Underwater explorer Barry Clifford, who guided the team that discovered and investigated the shipwreck, says he’s confident it is.
“Every single piece fits. Now, of course, we have to go through the whole archeological process, and we plan to do that within the next few months, but I feel very confident that we’ve discovered the site,” he told CNN.
“This is the ship that changed the course of human history,” Clifford said.
Could sunken wreck be Columbus’ ship?
If the claim is confirmed, it would go down as one of the most significant underwater archaeological discoveries ever.
“It is the Mount Everest of shipwrecks for me,” said Clifford, 68.
But it isn’t a new find for him. Clifford’s announcement involves a wreck he and his team investigated in 2003. A cannon was found as part of the wreck. But, Clifford told CNN, archaeologists at the time “misdiagnosed” the cannon.
Two years ago, after having researched the type of cannon used in Columbus’ time, “I woke up in the middle of the night and said, ‘Oh my God,’ ” Clifford told CNN. He realized the 2003 find might have been the one.
A couple of weeks ago, he returned to the wreck with a group of experts. The team measured and photographed the ship. But some items, including the cannon, had been looted from the ship in the intervening years, Clifford said.
The ship “still has attributes that warrant an excavation to determine the site’s identity,” archaeologist Charles Beeker of Indiana University said Tuesday. “Barry may have finally discovered the 1492 Santa Maria.”
The evidence, Beeker said, is “very compelling.”
The ship was found in the exact area where Columbus said the Santa Maria ran aground more than 500 years ago, Clifford said. The wreck is stuck on a reef off Haiti’s northern coast, 10 to 15 feet beneath the water’s surface.
Clifford plans to go back to Haiti next month to meet with authorities and decide what steps to take next.