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Haiti - Culture : The possible discovery of the wreck of Santa Maria under surveillance
29/05/2014 11:57:29

Haiti - Culture : The possible discovery of the wreck of Santa Maria under surveillance
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe in the presence notably of Stéphanie Balmir Villedrouin, the Minister of Tourism and Creative Industries and Monique Rosann, the Minister of Culture, had a meeting with the explorer Barry Clifford to discuss the possible discovery of the wreck of the Santa Maria (flagship of Christopher Columbus) during which Clifford presented the results of his research on this wreck.

Following this meeting, the Government has created a High Level Commission to monitor the possible discovery of Santa Maria off the north coast of Haiti. The Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe said that the Commission would be composed of experts from UNESCO, ministries of culture and tourism experts from the Museum of Haitian National Pantheon (MUPANAH) and Barry Clifford.

Recall that the Santa Maria was part of a fleet of three ships that left Spain in 1492 to find a shorter route to Asia. The ship, after arriving near the Bahamas, drifted and ran aground on a reef on Christmas Day and had to be abandoned.

"I am confident that a full excavation of the wreck will yield the first-ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbus's discovery of America," had declared Clifford at a press conference in New York two weeks ago. The wreck would have been discovered in about 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters) of water near a reef, and matches the length of the Santa Maria's 115-foot (35-meter) keel, according to Clifford's team.

However, the Haitian authorities remain skeptical, believing unlikely that there are still traces of the wooden ship, submerged since 1492. Hérold Josué, the Director of the National Bureau of Ethnology, believes it is a historical error and scientific, the remains of the Santa Maria would have been used to build the first Spanish fort on Haitian soil.

A skepticism shared by many international scientists reserves.

Kevin Crisman, Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M remains cautious, noting that several Spanish ships were wrecked off Haiti and it will be difficult to confirm that this is the Santa Maria, adding that the ship sank so slowly and that the crew had time to retrieve all objects, such as guns, which could allow to identify it.

Professor Charles Beeker, director of underwater science at Indiana University relativized this announcement "[...] A search will still need to find more evidence and confirm [...] but I remain skeptical because people constantly throw assertions."

The Spanish historian Consuelo Varela, an internationally renowned specialist on Christopher Columbus of Centre for Scientific Research (CSIC) considers "unlikely that the remains found on the coast of Haiti belong to Santa Maria."

For François Gendron, of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, who excavated a shipwreck in the Dominican Republic, "For me, this is an announcement effect, very common in this type of explorers [...] In general, they seek funds for new operations and need for that a maximum media exposure."

Deagan, conducted in 2003 and on which relies Barry Clifford, the wood is gone, it only remains of the wreck the heavy stones that served as ballasts.

Recall that the explorer Barry Clifford, better known as a professional treasure hunter, is not at its first discovery. In 1984, it is him who identified and surfaced off Cape Cod, the first pirate shipwreck, the Whydah. He has also led a dozen research on other ships. Nevertheless However, apart from photos and measurements, no objects were ascended allowing to to identify the remains of the wreck. Clifford hoping official support for the recovery and protection of the wreck from looters, arguing that it could give a boost to the tourism industry of Haiti...

HL/ SL/ HaitiLibre

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