More scrutiny for shipwreck found off Haiti’s coast

NEW YORK, USA — Maritime archaeological investigator Barry Clifford talks about discovering what he believes to be Christopher Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria off the northern coast of Haiti at a news conference on May 14, 2014 in New York. Clifford says “all the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggest that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship,” which struck a reef and foundered on Christmas Day in 1492. (PHOTO: AFP)

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PARIS, France (CMC) — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) says the remains of a Haitian shipwreck, believed to be the lost remains of the Santa Maria — the flagship of Christopher Columbus, requires further investigation.

A UNESCO team led by the former head of the Spanish National Museum on Underwater Archaeology, Xavier Nieto Prieto, recently examined the wreck off Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti and collected samples as part of the investigation.

The wreck was first discovered by explorer Barry Clifford, who earlier this year alerted Haitian authorities.

Clifford then said he was certain that the “Holy Grail” of shipwrecks had been found but needed to investigate further.

However, Clifford and Charles Beeker, a leading maritime archaeologist and director of Indiana University’s (IU) underwater science programme, were rejected by UNESCO’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Body.

Ulrike Guerin, who is responsible for underwater cultural heritage issues at UNESCO, said the two were rejected on several grounds, including a lack of scientific background, proof of available funds and competence.

In response, Beeker said the decision made no sense given that he and Indiana University were endorsed by UNESCO to document Columbus artifacts at La Isabela, Dominican Republic.

The Miami Herald reports that as part of its scrutiny, the UNESCO team recovered samples of diagnostic artifacts to date the site and investigated other nearby shipwrecks.

“The evidence collected concerning the location, nature and artifact content will now be subjected to thorough investigation by an acclaimed team of experts,” UNESCO said.

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