Marine Explorer Claims to Have Found Columbus' Ship Santa Maria
Marine explorer Barry Clifford claims he has found the wreck of Christopher Columbus' flagship Santa Maria off the north coast of Haiti.
“All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria,” said the leader of a recent reconnaissance expedition to the site, Barry Clifford, quoted by The Independent, the British newspaper that first reported the discovery.
“The Haitian government has been extremely helpful – and we now need to continue working with them to carry out a detailed archaeological excavation of the wreck,” he said.
More than five centuries the Santa Maria was wrecked in the Caribbean, several months after Columbus and his crew reached America for the first time.
So far the exact location of the wreck was a mystery, though explorers and scientists have been working for years on uncovering it.
In 2003 Clifford and his crew discovered a wreck off the coast of Haiti at a place where he reckoned the Santa Maria sank. Back then the experts overruled the possibility that these were her remains. Since then Clifford had invested considerable effort and a significant sum of money to eliminate all other possibilities.
Several weeks ago Clifford and his crew returned to the site of the wreck to seek additional proof that this was the Santa Maria.
The site of the wreck corresponded to the description given by Columbus in his diary. At the bottom the explorers found a field of stones, corresponding roughly to the size of the ship, which would have carried them for ballast.
"This shipwreck altered the course of human history," Clifford told the USA Today. "We're very excited."
He said he had all the permits from the Haitian government to continue his work, but would wait for now and his top priority is to protect the wreck from looting.
Clifford said treasure hunters have already looted the site and took away some important important evidence. According to him, there was much more to be found, but refused to divulge any details.
Clifford's claims have divided the expert opinion - some say he may be on to something, wile others warn of caution.
"There is some very compelling evidence from the 2003 photographs of the site and from the recent reconnaissance dives that this wreck may well be the Santa Maria," Indiana University's Charles Beeker told The Independent.
"If this is a very early Spanish shipwreck, it should be looked at by a number of different people who are experienced in … archaeological sites from that time period," said Roger Smith, Florida's state underwater archaeologist, who has long experience studying shipwrecks.
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