(Transcript from World News Radio)
A US underwater explorer claims he may have found the wreckage of one of Christopher Columbus’s ships – more than 500 years after it sank off the coast of Haiti.
Barry Clifford says the remains of the Santa Maria need to be salvaged as quickly as possible – to prevent further looting.
Greg Navarro has more.
Speaking to an audience at the Explorers Club in New York City – underwater explorer Barry Clifford sounded more like lawyer before a jury – trying to prove his case.
“When you hear the evidence of what we found, I think the evidence is overwhelming that this ship most probably is the Santa Maria. I can’t imagine myself as to what else it could be.”
The Santa Maria is one of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’s ships.
It ran aground during Columbus’ voyage to the Americas in 1492.
Barry Clifford says he first made the discovery more than a decade ago – but chose to go public now – out of a sense of urgency.
“We just learned from our last expedition that the wreck had been looted. So we’re appealing to the public, we’re appealing to the government of Haiti, which have been very cooperative. The President has been marvelous and understanding the significance of this, obviously, and in order to project and preserve and to excavate the shipwreck.”
The 68-year old explorer says he believes several items – including the ship’s cannon – have been taken, and he’s concerned that nobody is guarding the wreckage to prevent thieves from stealing any more.
Looters may not be Barry Clifford’s only problem – as he tries to convince the world that the remains of a ship found in relatively shallow water – is an elusive piece of history archaeologists have searched for – unsuccessfully – for centuries.
He says entries from Columbus’ diary led him to a spot just off the coast from Cap Haitien.
“It was at the exact distance that Columbus said that he lost the Santa Maria from his fort. So we go the exact distance that he says, and we find exactly what we’re looking for. And we eliminated everything else.”
Barry Clifford says all that’s left from what could be one of the most significant underwater discoveries ever is a pile of stones used to help stabilise the Santa Maria.
“Those stones were in the very bottom of the ship. the ship has all been eaten away since then by marine organisms.”
Claims that these stones are the evidence of a find – which no one could find for more than five centuries – are sure to attract skeptics.
Which may explain why just being an explorer isn’t enough.
“The reason why this hadn’t been found before is people were looking in the wrong place which is understandable. I went there first and eliminated those areas for the 3rd and 4th time.”
Especially when trying to convince people you’ve made the discovery of a lifetime.