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Explorer Who Claimed Discovery Of Santa Maria Shipwreck Says Looters Destroying Site

BOSTON (CBS) -- In 2014, explorer Barry Clifford claimed to have found the wreck of Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria off of the coast of Haiti in the Bay of Cap-Haitien.

But shortly after, the site was discovered by looters. Clifford said they took away anything that may have positively identified the ship.

UNESCO then concluded the wreck was more likely a ship from a later era.

"They never talked to us, they never asked to see our records," said Clifford. "It's a very serious situation."

santa maria
A Cape Cod researcher says he's found the Santa Maria. (WBZ-TV)

But Clifford, 71, insisted to WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Kim Tunnicliffe that it was the famed flagship of explorer Christopher Columbus's fleet, and that it must be preserved.

"That ship changed the course of human history, and it's being destroyed right now by people who are stealing things off of that wreck because UNESCO said no, that's not it," he said.

Clifford discovered the only authenticated pirate shipwreck in the United States in 1984--the wreck of the Whydah, pirate captain "Black Sam" Bellamy's ship--off the coast of Wellfleet.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Kim Tunnicliffe reports

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