Haitian Shipwreck Not Columbus’s Santa Maria -UNESCO

Mike Schuler
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October 6, 2014

A model of the Santa Maria on display in Fort San Cristóbal, Puerto Rico. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

A team of experts working on a UNESCO mission to confirm the identity of a shipwreck found off the coast of Haiti have determined that the wreck is NOT that of the flagship of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to America.

The mission was requested by the Haitian Government following claims earlier this year by an American explorer that he had found the remains of the Santa Maria.

“There is now incontestable proof that the wreck is from a much later period,” according to the report drafted by mission leader Xavier Nieto Prieto, who visited Cap-Haitian, north of the island, from 9 to 14 September.

According to a statement from UNESCO on the findings of the mission, the bronze or copper fasteners found on the site, near the Coque Vieille Reef north of Haiti, point to shipbuilding techniques of the late 17th or 18th centuries when ships were sheathed in copper. Prior to that period, UNESCO says, only iron or wood fasteners were used in shipbuilding.

The UNESCO mission to confirm the identity of the shipwreck, which was first discovered in 2003, followed an announcement in May from Massachusetts marine archeologist Barry Clifford claiming that the wreck was likely that of the Santa Maria.

The Santa Maria was the flagship and one of three ships Christopher Columbus led during his historic 1492 crossing of Atlantic Ocean from Spain in search of a shorter route to Asia. The Santa Maria ran aground on Christmas morning in December 1492.

Prieto concluded that in addition to fasteners, the wreck was also located too far from shore to be the Santa Maria.

Following the announcement of the find in May, the Culture Minister of Haiti, Monique Rocourt, requested for the support of the Scientific and Technical Body of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Convention to send a mission of experts to the site to confirm the ship’s identity.

The report from Prieto recommends further exploration to find the Santa Maria and draw an inventory of other major wrecks in the area.

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