Christopher Columbus, Santa Maria

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Christopher Columbus, Santa Maria

Casa de Campo’s own Dr. Charles Beeker, is part of the team of archaeologists who believe they have discovered the long-lost remains of Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, a finding which is set to become the world’s most important underwater archaeological discovery.

An expedition team Barry Clifford, lead by one of America’s top underwater archaeological investigators, originally surveyed and photographed the wreck site off the north coast of Haiti back in 2003, but at the time it’s possible identity was unknown. Since then, the probable discovery of Columbus’ fort nearby to the wreck led Mr. Clifford to re-consider the possibility that it could be the Santa Maria.

Having re-examined photographs of the wreck-site, as well as other factors such as geographical and underwater topography, Barry Clifford led another expedition to the site earlier this month, and was joined by Dr. Charles Beeker, the director of Academic Diving and Underwater Science at the Indian University Bloomington. 

At this stage the team have been carrying out non-invasive surveying, including measuring and photography, but have announced that they will carry out a full excavation of the wreck.

“I am confident that a full excavation of the wreck will yield the first ever detailed marine archaeological evidence of Columbus’ discovery of America,” said Mr. Clifford.

Meanwhile, Dr. Charles Beeker, who also carried out an underwater visual assessment of the site, said that it “warrants a detailed scientific investigation to obtain diagnostic artefacts”, but yet did concur that “there is some very compelling evidence that this wreck may well be the Santa Maria.”

Sadly, upon returning to the location, the scientists discovered that key visible diagnostic objects including the cannon, that had been photographed in 2003, were missing, most probably looted. However, now that the potential historical significance of the site is known, Mr. Clifford and his team are working very closely with the Haitian government to ensure its preservation.

The hope is that in the future, the remains of the vessel will be conserved in a permanent public exhibition in a museum in Haiti.

Christopher Columbus, Santa Maria

An 1892 replica of the Santa Maria

The Santa Maria & Christopher Colombus

Santa María, was the largest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. It was aboard the Santa Maria that Christopher Columbus first arrived to the Caribbean, to the Bahamas in October of 1492, followed by Cuba, later arriving to the island of Hispaniola in December of the same year.

It was on Christmas Day, 1492 that the Santa Maria ran aground off the coast of Haiti, and had to be abandoned, following which Columbus continued his journey along the northern coast of La Hispaniola, stopping at the Samana Penisula in the Dominican Republic, before returning to Europe.

Over the next 10 years, Christopher Colombus would return to the Caribbean and the Island of Hispaniola on each of his 3 additional voyages. However, the city of Santo Domingo was actually founded by Bartholomew Columbus, the brother of Christopher Colombus.   

Dr. Charles Beeker & the “Quedagh Merchant”

Dr. Charles Beeker formed part of the team who discovered the remains of Captain Kidd’s ship, the “Quedagh Merchant” (also called the Cara Merchant) a few years ago off the coast of Catalina Island (very close to Casa de Campo) in less than 10 feet of water.

Dr. Charles Beeker, the director of Academic Diving and Underwater Science at the Indian University Bloomington has led the investigation of the wreckage; firstly studying it to prove that it is in fact the “Quedagh Merchant” and secondly working with the government of the Dominican Republic and the La Romana – Bayahibe tourism cluster to develop the sight as a tourist attraction. (Click here to read more.) 

archeological museum altos de chavon

Dr. Charles Beeker (2nd from left) at the Altos de Chavón Archeological Museum