Columbus’ Lost Ship May Have Been Found

SCIENCE

More than five centuries after Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, was wrecked in the Caribbean, archaeologists think they may have discovered the vessel’s long-lost remains—lying at the bottom of the sea off the north coast of Haiti. It’s likely to be one of the world’s most important underwater archaeological discoveries. (The Independent)

Use our resources to learn more about shipwrecks and underwater archaeology.

Columbus left Spain with three ships, depicted in this spectacular oil painting by N.C. Wyeth: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. He returned with two. A night of hard partying off the coast of what is now Haiti left no sailors awake enough to steer the Santa Maria, the expedition's largest ship. It crashed on a reef and sank. Now, American archaeologists may have discovered the shipwreck. Painting by N.C. Wyeth, National Geographic

Columbus left Spain with three ships, depicted in this spectacular oil painting by N.C. Wyeth: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. He returned with two. A night of hard partying off the coast of what is now Haiti left no sailors awake enough to steer the Santa Maria, the expedition’s largest ship. It crashed on a reef and sank. Now, American archaeologists may have discovered the shipwreck.
Painting by N.C. Wyeth, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • Read the terrific Independent article on the possible discovery of Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria. Barry Clifford, the lead archaeologist associated with the shipwreck, says he has worked with the government of Haiti to properly document the site. Listen to our explorer, Bob Ballard, describe his discovery of the Titanic. What government did Ballard consult with?
    • Ballard was working for the U.S, Navy at the time, so he technically consulted with his own government. But otherwise . . .
    • Ballard did not need to consult with any nation about documenting the shipwreck. The Titanic sank in the open sea, outside any nation’s exclusive economic zone. The (supposed) Santa Maria, on the other hand, was discovered less than 200 nautical miles off the northern coast of Haiti, within that nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). A nation has the right to explore and exploit all the living and non-living resources within its EEZ—from shipwrecks to seafood to oil deposits.

 

  • Play our fun map game, “Find the Sunken Treasure.” The tool digital underwater archaeologists use in the game is a gradiometer. Do you think the archaeologists studying the Santa Maria site used a gradiometer? What artifacts do you think they found?
    • Barry Clifford and other archaeologists used a tool similar to a gradiometer, called a magnetometer, to detect metals in the shipwreck site.
    • The artifacts discovered at the Haiti site are probably pretty similar to the ones in the game: cannon, coins, nails and other equipment used on the ship itself.

 

  • The Independent article says one of the most spectacular finds in Haiti was a 15th-century cannon discovered a year earlier, before archaeologists realized the significance of the site. Why didn’t archaeologists re-locate the cannon when they re-located the site?
    • The cannon, along with many artifacts from the site, was looted. Such thievery is a major concern for underwater archaeologists. (And, really, all archaeologists.) Ocean explorer Bob Ballard explains these concerns with real-world examples from the 20th-century North Atlantic (site of the Titanic) and the Bronze-Age Black Sea.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s