Talk about a big day in history! This may be the biggest discovery since….well 1492!
Barry Clifford, an underwater explorer, used the information from Columbus’ journals to locate the wreck of the ship. The History Channel funded the expedition to track down the skeletal remains of the flagship Santa Maria. The ship sunk after a storm, in what is now Haiti, on Christmas Day 1492. Columbus and his crew managed to salvage the usable timber on the ship before it went down. The timber was used to build a nearby fort. For centuries, the fort’s whereabouts remained a mystery, but archaeologists tracked down its likely location in 2003.
Clifford’s mission to find the Santa Maria was the subject of a 2004 Discovery Channel documentary “Quest for Columbus.” His team photographed the wreck back in 2003, and those pictures, along with data from computers and other recent dives, have convinced Clifford it’s the long-lost ship.
In an interview with CNN, Clifford says, “Every single piece fits. Now, of course, we have to go through the whole archaeological process, and we plan to do that within the next few months, but I feel very confident that we’ve discovered the site. This is the ship that changed the course of human history; it is the Mount Everest of shipwrecks for me.”
The announcement of the Santa Maria being found involves a wreck that Clifford and his team investigated in 2003. The cannon was found as part of the wreck. Archaeologists at the time “misdiagnosed” the cannon.
Two years ago, after having researched the type of cannon used in Columbus’ time, Clifford realized the 2003 find might have been the one. “I woke up in the middle of the night and said, “Oh my God.”
Clifford told the Independent, “I am confident that a full excavation of the wreck will yield the first-ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbus’ discovery of America, All the geographical underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship.”
Clifford has been working with the Haitian government to preserve the wreck site. One of the cannons has been looted between the initial discovery in 2003 and now. “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,” says the explorer.
The History Channel is continuing to help fund the project and has gained exclusive television rights to produce programming on the massive discovery.