BOSTON (CBS) – A New England explorer may have found the wreckage of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus.
"To preserve this for mankind, that was my mission," said explorer Barry Clifford.
Clifford has been searching for the wreck since 2003, and may have found it off the north coast of Haiti.
His dive team has found a large rock pile, possibly ballast material from the ship, on a reef in just 10 feet of water. Clifford was led to the site by Columbus' own diary, where he described the sinking of the ship on Christmas Eve, in 1492.
"Columbus described the exact spot," Clifford said.
Clifford said there are no other records of a ship from the 15th century sinking in the Bay of Cap-Haitien.
The problem is looters have also found the site and taken away just about everything, including possibly a cannon, that may have positively identified the Santa Maria.
Many archaeologists doubt the claim. A marine archaeologist from Amesbury, Graham McKay, said it's possible that Clifford may have found the Santa Maria, but it'll take forensic work to prove it.
"If you can find timber from the wreck, carbon dating can determine when the wood was cut, and maybe even the region it came from," he said.
But McKay said that without a ship's bell or other identifying features, Clifford will have his work cut out for him proving the wreck is that of the Santa Maria.
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