Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

IU Professor Thinks He's Found Columbus' 'Santa Maria'

Adam Jones

On Christmas Day in 1492, the flagship of Christopher Columbus’ fleet hit a reef and sank.

More than 500 years later, Indiana University underwater science and diving professor  Charlie Beeker says there’s compelling evidence that a shipwreck near Cap-Haitien is the Santa Maria.

“It’s the right location, it’s the right type of dynamics I would expect of a shipwreck of the time period," Beeker says.  "It’s going to take an investigation to prove it, but as with other shipwrecks, that is what my mission will be.”

Beeker is currently in the Dominican Republic conducting research.  When he’s finished there at the end of the month, he plans to go back to Haiti and work with a team on what he calls a diagnostic investigation

“We’re going to be digging on the site, we’re going to be moving ballast stones, we’re going to be looking for diagnostic artifacts. Now whether or not the whole site warrants an investigation is to be determined.  If it is the Santa Maria, I mean what are you going to do? Is it worth a full scale investigation – absolutely.

Beeker says the investigation could take a couple of years. His team is working with the Haitian government to determine the best approach to long term protection of the site if it turns out to be the Santa Maria.  The site is unprotected and Beeker says treasure hunters have already looted it.