Christopher Columbus' Lost Ship, The Santa Maria, Might've Just Been Found Off The Coast Of Haiti

Big news Tuesday for the nautical history buffs amongst us: Christopher Columbus' long-lost ship might be found. That's the belief of American underwater investigator Barry Clifford and his team, who have taken photos and surveyed the scene of a wreck off the northern coast of Haiti, and now believe it to be the remains of the Santa Maria. And for history's sake, we hope they're correct — the discovery of the Santa Maria could well bring with it newly-found historical artifacts or insights, and even otherwise would still be, as Clifford described it, "the first-ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbus' discovery of America."

The wreck's discovery involved a bit of historical reverse-engineering, owing to the fate of much of the Santa Maria's timber. After crashing against the reef, it was ultimately stripped and used to construct a fort for Columbus' sailors — La Navidad, it was named — and by examining archaeological evidence for its location, they were able to scout the waters that seemed most likely to have swallowed up the damaged ship.

The Santa Maria was the flagship of Columbus' fleet, flanked by the La Nina and La Pinta, which set out from Europe bound west for Asia in 1492. It crashed on Christmas Day that same year, and Columbus ordered the construction of La Navidad out of its remnants, then departed the island, leaving behind a spate of his sailors to construct the outpost while he sailed back to Spain. For over 500 years, what was left behind of the Santa Maria had never been discovered — but that could be the case no longer.

Speaking to CNN, Clifford described what his team considers the Santa Maria "smoking gun": A 15th century cannon discovered in the remains, and photographed back in 2003. When they set about searching for the Santa Maria lately, they realized they'd already discovered that wreck in the area of La Navidad, But in the intervening years, the cannon was taken, whisked away by "illicit raiders," according to The Independent archaeology correspondent David Keys, in addition to other "key visible diagnostic objects." Which means the task of confirming the identity of this felled ship is still far from simple or assured.

The site of the wreck will reportedly be searched in cooperation with the Haitian government, and luckily for all of us, we could get to see some of it — the History Channel is planning a documentary about the discovery. Which, considering they sometimes spend their time on aliens and Nostradamus predictions, sounds like a welcome addition.

Image: Wikipedia Commons