The wreck of the Santa Maria, 15th century Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus’ flagship, may have been discovered off the coast of Haiti.

Santa Maria Found?

Underwater explorer Barry Clifford is confident that the wreck not far off Haiti’s coast and only 10 to 15 feet beneath the water’s surface is that of the Santa Maria. "This is the ship that changed the course of human history," he told CNN, adding, "It is the Mount Everest of shipwrecks for me."

Clifford did not just recently discover the wreck. In fact, he first came upon it over a decade ago in 2003. At the time his team believed that the cannon found with the wreck made it unlikely that the ship was the Santa Maria. However, now Clifford says they “misdiagnosed” the artifact and learned two years ago that it did fit the bill for the late 1400s.

"I woke up in the middle of the night and said, 'Oh my God,' " Clifford told CNN, reffering to his realization.

Clifford’s enthusiasm and optimism is shared by others in his field, including Indiana University archaeologist Charles Beeker. The wreck "still has attributes that warrant an excavation to determine the site's identity," said Beeker, adding, "Barry may have finally discovered the 1492 Santa Maria."

The Santa Maria, which had traveled from Spain to seek an alternate route to the East Indies by sailing West along with the Nina and the Pinta, wrecked in December 1492 – just a couple of months after arriving in the Caribbean. Only the Nina and the Pinta returned with Columbus to Spain in January 1493.

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