Experts think they may have located Christopher Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria, off the coast of Haiti.
They say that a shipwreck located off the Haiti coast could well be one of the three ships that reached the Americas during the famous 1492 expedition.
Expedition team leader Barry Clifford told the UK’s Independent newspaper:
“All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria.”
Reportedly, the team came across and photographed the shipwreck a decade ago, but only realised its significance recently.
Sources say that the Santa Maria hit a reef off the Haitian coast, with explorer Columbus on board.
The crew built a small settlement, the first European New World settlement in the Americas since the Vikings found Newfoundland in the 11th century.
Columbus was said to have named his Haiti settlement ‘La Navidad’, which means ‘Christmas’, before returning to his adopted Spain on the Nina.
He left behind some 39 crew members that he was unable to take back. When he went back a year later, with 17 ships and over a thousand men, the Navidad settlement had been burnt down and there were no survivors.
They had been killed by the natives in retaliation for mistreating the islanders.
The research team say that their 2003 discovery of the possible remains of ‘La Navidad’ corresponds with what they would expect to find in relation to the size and location of the lost fort.
The discovery led the team to the current location off the coast – which they’d already seen before, unaware of its importance. It was only on re-examination that they realised how crucial the wreck may prove to be.
Clifford said: “I am confident that a full excavation of the wreck will yield the first ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbus’ discovery of America.”
TV’s the History Channel has been filming the operation and will air a show about the findings.