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A shipwreck discovered off the coast of Haiti may just be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in recent years. Archaeologists believe that the ship may be the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ flagship.
Barry Clifford, one of the top underwater archaeologists in the U.S., made the determination using data from a 2003 discovery of the location of Columbus’ fort, reports The Independent. Clifford also used Columbus’ own data to discover the ship.
“All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria,” Clifford told the paper. “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.”
The Santa Maria sank in 1492, after Columbus’ expedition landed in the Caribbean. According to The New York Daily News, the crew was able to use some of the ship’s timber to build a fort.
According to the Independent, the location of the wreck matches Columbus’ description in his diary. The expedition also had the help of locals, who understood the ancient topography of the location.
The Santa Maria was Columbus’ largest ship. The other two - the Nina and the Pinta - did make it back to Europe, but their locations are unknown.
“Ideally, if excavations go well, and depending on the state of preservation of any buried timber, it may ultimately be possible to lift any surviving remains of the vessel, fully conserve them and then put them on permanent public exhibition in a museum in Haiti,” Clifford told the Independent.
The expedition was funded by The History Channel which plans to air a documentary on it. Clifford also participated in a 2004 Discovery Channel special called Quest for Columbus.