Site of potential shipwreck of the Santa Maria
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Haiti's prime minister said on Wednesday that his government was ready to continue to work with archaeological investigators to solve a 500-year-old mystery about the wreck of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus's flagship, which may have been discovered off the northern coast of the Caribbean country.
PM Laurent Lamothe said the Haitian government was pleased to learn that the debris of the famous Santa Maria ship may have been found in Haitian waters and expressed support for the work done by a team of US underwater archaeological investigators led by Barry Clifford.
"We are excited to learn that the debris of Christopher Columbus's ship may have been discovered in Haitian waters after five centuries," Lamothe told HCNN on Wednesday.
"We are pleased to work with experts working on this amazing discovery and we are ready to assist them in any way possible in their efforts to solve that mystery," said Lamothe.
The story, which was broken by the British newspaper, The Independent, was very well received by several Haitian public and private operators who believe the discovery, if confirmed, could be a big boost for Haiti's already improving tourism industry.
"Of course, it would be a big boost for Haiti's tourism because many people would want to come to the northern region in order to visit the site where the wreck of the Santa Maria would be found," Lamothe said.
Private operators in the tourism sector share the views of the Haitian prime minister in terms of what such a discovery would mean for Haiti's tourism.
"This will be a significant asset for Haiti's tourism industry if this is confirmed,” the outgoing president of Haiti's Touristic Association and CEO of the Citadelle travel agency and tour operator, Pierre Chauvet, told HCNN.
"I also think that the government should take necessary measures to protect the site from potential predators who may want to take away all they can from the debris," said Chauvet.
Speaking at a news conference in New York on Wednesday, Clifford, who led a recent reconnaissance expedition to the site, explained that there is overwhelming geographical and archaeological evidence showing that the wreck found is that of Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria."
"I think the evidence is overwhelming that the ship is most likely the Santa Maria," said Clifford, explaining that he needed to locate a facility to potentially house any of the artifacts.
The remains were discovered in about 10 to 15 feet of water near a reef, according to Clifford and his exploration team.
"We've been in touch with the Haitian government; we've been in touch directly with President Martelly. My mission is to preserve, excavate the ship and make sure it is put on display in a way that would help the Haitian people," added Clifford.
The Santa Maria wrecked on Christmas day of 1492 off the coast of Haiti's northern region. Christopher Columbus also sailed then with two other vessels, the Pinta and the Nina.