One of the most famous shipwrecks in world history occurred on Christmas Eve 1492. The flagship of Christopher Columbus, the Santa María, foundered upon a reef off the coast of what is now Haiti. Now, more than five centuries later, what remains of the ship that carried the first Europeans to the New World may have been located, in fairly shallow waters. Maritime archaeological investigator Barry Clifford has announced that he is “confident” he has found the wreckage of the Santa María. Clifford, who found the Whydah, a pirate slaver, off the coast of Cape Cod in 1984, intends to work with the government of Haiti to raise the remains, which would likely be put on display in Haiti. Such an exhibition would be welcome news for Haiti’s tourism industry.
Using Columbus’s journals, photographs, underwater current charts, sonar, and other tech gear, Clifford deciphered the location of what he believes to be the Santa María 10 to 15 feet underwater. In his diary Columbus detailed what happened as he cruised along the northern coast of the island he had named Hispaniola. On Christmas Eve, the vessel struck a reef and sank. Its cargo and crew were transferred to the Niña. It is believed that Columbus ordered that wood from the sunken carrack be hauled ashore and used to build a fort. That outpost was named La Navidad (“Nativity” in Spanish, i.e., Christmas). On a later voyage, Columbus found the fort—abandoned in ruins.
In 2003, Clifford first came upon what he now believes is the Santa María’s wreckage. The evidence at the time was inconclusive. After new archaeological discoveries on land relating to the fort’s location, Clifford reexamined his earlier findings. He concluded that this wreck, first detected a decade before, could indeed be Columbus’s famous flagship. HISTORY (aka the History Channel) will document the historic search.
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- Santa Maria
This report discusses the possible discovery of Columbus’s ship, missing for more than 500 years.
(Source: NPR; accessed May 31, 2014)
- Wreckage of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria Found Off Haitian Coast (Maybe)
Read Smithsonian’s account of the potential discovery of the Santa María.
(Source: Smithsonian, May 13, 2014)
- Haiti Creates Commission to Monitor Possible Santa Maria Wreck
This article discusses what the Haitian government has done in anticipation of a full-scale excavation of the shipwreck thought to be the Santa María.
(Source: Reuters, May 28, 2014)