Lifestyle & Belief

Archaeologists may have just found the wreck of Christopher Columbus' ship the Santa Maria


A 1905 statue of Columbus in the main square of Valladolid, Spain.


Philippe Desmazes

This could be the biggest discovery since, well, 1492.

Archaeologists believe they may have found the wreckage of the Santa Maria, one of the ships Christopher Columbus used to sail the ocean blue en route to the "New World" more than 500 years ago.

The wreck was discovered stuck on a reef at the bottom of the sea off the north coast of Haiti in the exact spot Columbus reported losing his flagship, the Independent first reported.

As we all know, Columbus took three ships on his famous voyage from Spain to "discover" America in the 15th century — the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

But what you probably don't remember is two of them — the Niña and Pinta — made it back to Spain. The Santa Maria did not.

Instead, it accidentally ran aground off the coast of what is now Haiti on Christmas Day in 1492. Crews used wooden planks and other provisions from the 117-foot-long ship to help build a fort on the island.

The rest sank into the depths of the ocean.

So how did archaeologists supposedly find its remains centuries later?

Explorer Barry Clifford used data from a 2003 expedition to the area as well as information from Columbus' own journals to locate what he believes is the famous wreckage.

The "smoking gun," he says, is a cannon of 15th century design found at the site.

The ship is also the right size, and stones found nearby match those from the area of Spain where the ship was built.

"It is the Mount Everest of shipwrecks for me," the 68-year-old Clifford told CNN. "This ship changed the course of human history."

The plan now is to excavate the wreck with the help of the Haitian government and examine it before putting the ship on display in a local museum.

If confirmed, it would be one of the most significant underwater archaeological finds in recent history.

Spain's King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I sent Columbus on his famous voyage in hopes of finding a westward route to China, India and islands to the east that were home to gold and spices.

But the land he set eyes on in October 1492 wasn't India, but the present-day Bahamas.

Celebrated for centuries as the "discoverer of America," Columbus is also reviled by many for opening up the Americas to European colonization and, as a result, the destruction of the native peoples on the islands he explored.

He also didn't really "discover America." Researchers now believe Viking Leif Ericksson beat him to the punch nearly 500 years earlier.