On an expedition sponsored by the History Channel, one of the top U.S. underwater archaeological investigators, Barry Clifford, has said he found a wreck that could very well be the lost vessel.
"All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus' famous flagship, the Santa Maria," said Clifford.
Columbus and his crew were headed from the Bahamas to Haiti when the Santa Maria ran into a reef off the north shore. They were able to salvage some timber and make a fort in Haiti. Clifford found the site by locating the fort Columbus described in his diary, and then tracking the ship's location from that description.
After locating the fort, Clifford realized they had examined this wreck 10 years prior but without knowledge of the its potential significance. He reviewed photos of the wreck from his original examination and found evidence consistent with the Columbus era, including a probable cannon that was aboard the ship.
When Clifford returned to the ship, he found the cannon and other artifacts had been looted by raiders. He is now working with the Haitian government to preserve the ship for a more in-depth investigation.
"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," Clifford told The Independent. "I believe that, treated in this way, the wreck has the potential to play a major role in helping to further develop Haiti's tourism industry in the future."