Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Santa Maria wreckage found?

When I was first in Haiti in 2009, Sr. Marjorie Raphael kindly took me to the National Museum in Haiti, where I saw, alongside other wonderful things, the anchor of the Santa Maria.  I was astonished, having apparently retained very little from my early schooling in history.  

a 2012 photo of school field trip groups outside the Musee du Pantheon National Haitien, which holds the anchor of the Santa Maria
I am thankful the museum is still (or back) in operation following the earthquake.

I gather I'm also a little slow to pick up more recent news: although I was online last week, I missed this completely. Had I not gone to the Nouvelliste site for something else and followed a tiny picture off to the side, I'd never have seen it. Have you?

The story begins, as many do on the high seas, with a party. 
It was Christmas Eve, 1492. The setting: Christopher Columbus’s Santa María, the flagship vessel that he had commandeered to visit the New World. One by one, the crew fell asleep until only a cabin boy was left steering the ship in the Caribbean Sea.
Soon, the boy crashed the ship into a coral reef off of the northern coast of Hispaniola, or near Cap Haitien in Haiti. The ship sank to the bottom of the sea, and the crew spent that Christmas saving Santa María‘s cargo. Afterward, Columbus boarded one of his other ships, the Nina, and the explorers sailed back to Spain, leaving behind the wreckage of the Santa María – fueling a 500-year-old mystery over its remains.
Apparently someone may finally have found the wreckage. Of course, they've been looking for this a long time, but they had new information about the location of another historical site from which they've calculated the distance to this one. Et voila!

via the Wall Street Journal

Here's a short explanatory video from the History Channel:

The Miami Herald, which has good information, as usual, about news from Haiti, says,

The claim, which still needs to be verified, has its share of skeptics, including another underwater explorer who also believed he had discovered the remains of the Santa Maria while snorkeling in 1987 off Haiti’s northern coast.

“There is a lot of water, a lot of history around Haiti, and there have been many, many shipwrecks along the coast of Haiti,” said Daniel Koski-Karell, whose 1991 mission to confirm his hunch was thwarted by political turmoil.

But should the scientific evidence of the wreckage pan out this time, the discovery would solve a more than 500-year-old riddle that has plagued historians and marine archaeologists, and been the subject of many failed explorations. It would also help in the rebranding a country struggling to rebuild four years after a devastating earthquake, and desperately trying to reshape its image in the world.

“It would be a tremendous discovery for Haiti,” Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the Herald.

Lamothe, like others in the government, aren’t breaking out the champagne just yet.
But a confident Clifford, who says he’s been in touch with Haitian President Michel Martelly, is already envisioning a traveling exhibit of the wreckage that would be “a positive statement from Haiti around the world.”

“This ship that changed the course of human history needs to be protected and preserved for the Haitian people; that is much more valuable than gold,” he said. “This is an irreplaceable resource for the Haitian people.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/13/v-print/4115503/shipwreck-of-haiti-could-be-columbuss.html#storylink=cpy

The wreck as envisaged in 1492

So what's next?

The site has been looted, as all archeological sites somehow seem to be, even underwater, and a whole cannon has already disappeared, so they have to get moving as quickly as possible. Fortunately, the archaeologists themselves have gotten more responsible in the last century or so, and anything found will remain in Haiti where it belongs.

Barry Clifford, the lead archaeologist, says,

"“Ideally, if excavations go well and depending on the state of preservation of any buried timber, it may ultimately be possible to lift any surviving remains of the vessel, fully conserve them and then put them on permanent public exhibition in a museum in Haiti.

“I believe that, treated in this way, the wreck has the potential to play a major role in helping to further develop Haiti’s tourism industry in the future,” he said."

One more reason for me to get back to Haiti.

No comments:

Post a Comment