Shipwreck Probably Not Santa Maria

Shipwreck found off the coast of Haiti is probably not Santa Maria

Santa Maria
Replicas of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria sail Past Cape Canaveral in 1992 CORBIS

It’s a bad year for Christopher Columbus. Seattle just announced that the city is changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, and now the identification of his flagship, the Santa Maria, is being called into question.  

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed across the ocean with three ships but brought only two of them back home. The Santa Maria ran aground on Christmas that year, and its exact location was lost to history. As the Guardian reports, archaeologists have speculated for years as to whether the ship’s wreckage had disappeared into the sediment or been pushed out into the bay. 

Earlier this year, archaeologists claimed to have found the wreck of the Santa Maria off the coast of Haiti, but a new report from UNESCO says that this particular wreck cannot be that of the Santa Maria. 

From the report

Although the site is located in the general area where one would expect to find the Santa Maria based on contemporary accounts of Columbus’ first voyage, it is further away from shore than one should expect.

Furthermore, and even more conclusively, the fasteners found on the site indicate a technique of ship construction that dates the ship to the late 17th or 18th century rather than the 15th or 16th century. In addition, if artefact CV1-10 is indeed the remains of protective copper sheathing, than the ship could even not be dated to a time before the late 18th century. 

A few days before the UNESCO report was released, the AP reported that Barry Clifford, who had found and excavated the wreck site, was standing by his assertion that the wreck was the Santa Maria. 

The UNESCO report does recommend that people keep searching for the remains of the Santa Maria and encourages the government of Haiti to take steps to protect the wrecks in the area.  

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