Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria wreck 'found'

A replica boat of the Santa Maria, undated image A replica of the Santa Maria, the flagship of the Italian explorer's 1492 expedition

Related Stories

A US underwater investigator has said he believes he has found the wreck of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus's famed expedition.

Barry Clifford said evidence "strongly suggests" a ruin off Haiti's north coast is the Santa Maria.

Mr Clifford's team has measured and taken photos of the wreck.

He says he is working with the Haitian government to protect the site for a more detailed investigation.

The Santa Maria, along with the La Nina and La Pinta, were part of Columbus's expedition in 1492, which explored islands in the Caribbean in an attempt to find a westward passage to Asia.

The flagship was lost during the expedition, shortly before Columbus returned to Spain.

"All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus's famous flagship, the Santa Maria," said Mr Clifford.

line break

Columbus and his flagship

Christopher Columbus in a painting by Sebastiano del Piombo
  • The Santa Maria left Spain in August 1492, along with La Pinta and La Nina, sailing westward
  • It was the largest ship in the expedition, about 117ft (36m) long
  • The ship ran aground on a reef near Haiti on Christmas Day, 1492
  • Columbus told his crew to strip timbers from the ship to build an outpost or fort nearby, leaving sailors behind while he returned to Spain
  • The fort, known as La Navidad, was found destroyed upon Columbus's return to the island he called Hispanola

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Smithsonian Magazine

line break

"I am confident that a full excavation of the wreck will yield the first-ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbus' discovery of America," he added.

Mr Clifford said he identified the potential location of the Santa Maria through earlier archaeological findings that pinpointed a likely location for Columbus's fort - a building that experts always thought was erected near to where the ship ran aground.

He also used information from the explorer's diary, and a recent diving mission near the site further burnished Mr Clifford's belief the wreck was the Santa Maria.

Mr Clifford told US broadcaster CNN the "smoking gun" was a cannon of 15th Century design found at the site.

A marine archaeologist who accompanied Mr Clifford on that mission told the newspaper there was "very compelling evidence" but an excavation of the site would be necessary to confirm the wreck's identity.

Further investigation will be supported by the government of Haiti and the History Channel, which plans to make a documentary programme about the wreck.

Mr Clifford is best known for the excavation of the first fully verified pirate shipwreck, the Whydah.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Latin America & Caribbean stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Sunflowers.Show your colours

    Submit photos of your colourful life for a chance to be featured on BBC Travel

Programmes

  • Man dancingClick Watch

    Searching for the DNA of dance music – the quest to find the perfect party anthem

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.