Christopher Columbus' flagship 'found off Haiti coast'

A replica of the Santa Maria ship in which Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. Credit: Reuters

The long-lost remains of the flagship Santa Maria, which led Columbus' mission to discover America, has been found five centuries later, researchers have claimed.

A wreck found off the north coast of Haiti is believed to be the remains of the ship that had to be abandoned during Columbus' first voyage to America in 1492.

The investigation was led by Barry Clifford, an explorer famous for his discovery of the pirate ship Whydah.

An expedition by his team in 2003 discovered the first clues to finding Columbus' famous ship and after reading the explorer's diary, the team were able to locate where the wreck would be and carry out a further investigation on the site earlier this month.

“I am confident that a full excavation of the wreck will yield the first ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbus’ discovery of America,” Mr Clifford told The Independent.

Santa Maria was abandoned off the Caribbean coast five centuries ago during Columbus' first voyage to America. Credit: Reuters

Ideally, if excavations go well and depending on the state of preservation of any buried timber, it may ultimately be possible to lift any surviving remains of the vessel, fully conserve them and then put them on permanent public exhibition in a museum in Haiti.

Clifford has spent over a decade tracing the origins of the wreck.

His team has investigated more than 400 seabed anomalies off the north coast of Haiti and has narrowed the search for the Santa Maria down to the tiny area where the wreck, which the team thinks may well be Columbus’ lost vessel, has been found.

The painting reflects Christopher Columbus planting the cross in the New World, which he discovered over 500 years ago. Credit: Reuters

The Santa Maria was built in the second half of the 15th century and was the flagship of Columbus' small fleet that set sail from Spain in 1492 under the sponsorship of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I.

Columbus sailed in the Santa Maria from southern Spain’s Atlantic coast via the Canary Islands in search of a new western route to Asia.

After 37 days, Columbus reached the Bahamas but just over ten weeks later the ship ran aground off the northern coast of Haiti and had to be abandoned.