Archaeologists think they've found Santa Maria -- exactly where Columbus said it would be
A replica of Christopher Columbus' ship Santa Maria (Shutterstock)

Archaeological investigators believe they may have discovered the long-lost remains of Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria.

The leader of the expedition, Barry Clifford, told The Independent that all the evidence “strongly suggests” that wreckage found off the north coast of Haiti is the ship that sailed from Spain with the Niña and the Pinta in the famous 1492 voyage.

The other two ships returned from the New World to Spain, but the Santa Maria sank on Christmas Day that same year.

Archaeologists have located the site of the explorer’s fort and used information from his journal to help locate where the ship’s wreckage should be.

The wreck was found in exactly the spot where Columbus wrote that it would be, relative to his fort, and topographical evidence and local currents match historical accounts of the Santa Maria’s wreck.

Clifford’s team had already found and photographed the wreck a decade ago but did not, at that stage, realize which ship it might be until matching it up against other clues.

The investigators have so far done only non-invasive survey work at the site -- the photographs taken in 2003 and measurements taken in dives earlier this month.

Clifford and his team had hoped to definitively identity the cannon and other surface artifacts they had previously photographed, but they said all key visible diagnostic objects – including the cannon -- had been looted by thieves.

He hopes, if excavations go well and depending on the state of preservation of any buried timber, that the ship’s wreckage might be lifted out of the water and placed on permanent display in Haiti – which he said could help boost the country’s tourism industry.

[Image: A replica of Christopher Columbus' ship Santa Maria via Shutterstock]