London: U.S. experts believe they have found Christopher Columbus's vessel Santa Maria on the ocean floor near Haiti in what could be one of the most important underwater finds ever made, British newspaper The Independent reported.
A team headed by underwater archaeologist Barry Clifford believes that the remains of the approximately 19-metre-long vessel are lying north of the coast of Haiti in 10 to 15 feet of water, a conclusion reached after analysing photographs taken during a previous research project more than 10 years ago, along with other photos from a more recent reconnaissance expedition.
"All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus's famous flagship, the Santa Maria," Clifford said.
"The Haitian government has been extremely helpful -- and we now need to continue working with them to carry out a detailed archaeological excavation of the wreck," he told the daily.
The tentative identification of the Santa Maria -- the largest of the three wooden ships that Columbus used to "discover" the New World in 1492, although it displaced only about 150 tons -- was made possible by several investigative missions conducted by archaeologists in 2003.
With the information from the missions, Clifford has been able to use data from Columbus's diary to deduce where the sunken remains of the vessel should be.