A sunken ship off the coast of Haiti could be the remains of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus. If the claim can be confirmed, the discovery would be the crowning achievement of Barry Clifford’s career.
Barry Clifford, an underwater explorer, led a team of divers that found the wreck. His team used enhanced metal detectors and sonar scans to study the area. Clifford said the Santa Maria is the ship that changed history. Confirming he has found Columbus’ flag ship would be the Mount Everest of shipwrecks.
Clifford’s team used sophisticated metal detectors and sonar scans to study the remains. The ship has all the attributes of the Santa Maria. A team measured and photographed the spot where it rests. The location corresponds with journal entries made by Columbus when his 117-foot flagship ran aground off the northern coast of Haiti. The accident happened on Christmas Day in 1492. The wreck is in shallow water 10 to 15 feet beneath the surface. The remains of the keel appear to match that of the Santa Maria. Ballast stones found near the ship match rock found in Palos, Spain, the port where Columbus departed with the Nina and Pinta.
The spot of the Santa Maria was not found after a recent tedious search of the area. In 2003, Clifford investigated the wreck. One cannon from the ship was found and brought up for further investigation. Clifford and his team misdiagnosed the cannon and concluded it belonged to another ship. Two years ago, he doubted the findings. After researching the type of cannon Columbus took on his 1492 voyage, Clifford realized his error and returned to the site.
Charles Beeker, an archaeologist at Indiana University, said Clifford may have discovered the Santa Maria. The evidence so far presented sounded very compelling and required further examination.
Clifford plans to meet with government officials in Haiti to decide what steps will be taken to salvage any artifacts from the ship. An archaeological team will be needed to examine and recover items off the Haitian coast. What they find will help determine if the Santa Maria now rests where Clifford claims.
When the Santa Maria ran aground, Columbus ordered his men to build a fort called La Navidad from the ship’s planks. Not all of the planks were used. What was found buried under the ocean floor could be salvaged. A full excavation of the wreck could yield enough archaeological evidence the ship Clifford found is the Santa Maria.
Producers from The History Channel also plan to make a documentary about Clifford and events leading up to the wreck. One part of the documentary should mention that after Fort La Navidad was constructed, Columbus left part of his expedition there with a promise to return the following year. When he did, the fort was destroyed and the men gone without a trace.
Clifford’s career has involved him salvaging pirate ships off the coasts of Cape Cod and Madagascar. Until the wreckage of the Santa Maria is confirmed, His biggest discovery was the Whydah in 1984. Found off the coast of Cape Cod, artifacts from the Whydah have provided insights into pirate life in the 1700s. Discovering the wreck of the Santa Maria off the coast of Haiti would be the crowning achievement of Clifford’s career.
By Brian T. Yates