By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) - A shipwreck found off the north coast of Haiti could be the 500-year-old remains of the Santa Maria, which led Christopher Columbus's famed voyage to the New World, according to a team of marine explorers.
"All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus' famous flagship, the Santa Maria," Massachusetts marine investigator Barry Clifford said in a press release on Tuesday.
"I am confident that a full excavation of the wreck will yield the first-ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbus' discovery of America," he added.
Clifford, who led a reconnaissance expedition to the site, will hold a press conference Wednesday morning at the Explorer's Club in New York City to announce the discovery.
The Santa Maria was one of a fleet of three vessels that departed Spain in 1492 looking for a shorter route to Asia. The ship, after arriving near the Bahamas, drifted into a reef and had to be abandoned. Columbus ordered sailors to build a fort nearby before taking the remaining two ships back to Spain to report his findings.
Clifford and his team first discovered the wreck in 2003, but were unable to identify the ship. Yet the discovery of Columbus' encampment on nearby Haiti and data from the explorer's diary appear to prove the heavily decayed vessel on the sea floor was the Santa Maria.
(Editing by David Adams and James Dalgleish)