Rediscovering Christopher Columbus

CCSMCashing in on the promise of what one man staked his life and fortune upon over 500 years ago, remnants of an old discovery ship may have been found in what was once known as the New World.

According to news reports, Barry Clifford, an underwater explorer who in his early career worked in sea-based oil, construction, salvage and rescue operations for profit, discovered what he reportedly thinks may be the historic Santa Maria, pictured here with its captain Christopher Columbus in a painting. Clifford’s historic work includes recovery of artifacts from the Boston Tea Party. The undersea archaeologist has worked with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Discovery Channel and National Geographic Society and is president of the Provincetown, Massachusetts-based charity Center for Historic Shipwreck Preservation.

If Clifford’s discovery is confirmed, the find is a major historical achievement. The Santa Maria was flagship of the great voyage of Christopher Columbus, who discovered America and the West in 1492. Santa Maria, which is believed to have struck a reef off the coast of Haiti on Christmas Day, 1492, was the largest of three ships (the other two were the Nina and the Pinta). Scholars and experts say that the Santa Maria crossed the Atlantic Ocean without major trouble and was crucial to the historic voyage sponsored by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I, which set sail from Spain in August 1492.

As Clifford told CNN: “This is the ship that changed the course of human history.”

Yes it is and apparently the Santa Maria has been found in the exact area where Columbus said the ship came to an end off Haiti’s northern coast. The purpose of Columbus’ voyage was to find a westward route to China, India and what used to be called the Far East to find gold, riches and spices. In October of 1492, his sailors spotted an island in the Caribbean Sea and thus essentially discovered the West. When Santa Maria ran aground on the reef in shallow waters – Clifford’s shipwreck discovery is apparently in 10 to 15 feet of water – the great captain ordered that the ship be stripped of timber and that Santa Maria’s planks and provisions be used at a fort the men built in Haiti, where the Santa Maria’s anchor is on museum display.

According to CNN, the underwater discoverer Clifford, fittingly an enterprising seaman who seeks to profit like Christopher Columbus, says a lombard cannon is key to his realization – and Clifford like Columbus relied on his own judgment – that the wreck that lies underneath the surface is what’s left of the Santa Maria. Also appropriately, perfectly so in the 21st century, much of what Columbus left there has been looted.

As Old and New Worlds wait for confirmation, I look forward to learning new facts and knowledge about this flagship and its grand voyage and unconquerable captain and explorer.