UNESCO will send experts to Haiti to examine the possible wreck of Columbus’s "Santa Maria"

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced that in a few months it will send a mission to the site of an underwater shipwreck near Cap-Haitian, which may be that of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to America.


This response came after the Haitian Culture Minister Monique Rocourt sent a letter dated June 12 asking for the support of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of UNESCO’s 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, and requesting that a mission of experts be sent to the site.


Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, expressed concern about the risk “of looting of underwater heritage sites off the shores of Haiti. We stand by the authorities in fighting illicit trafficking in underwater cultural heritage objects and urge States to join Haiti’s efforts to find artifacts stolen from these underwater archaeological sites, notably the one that will visited by UNESCO’s mission.”


On May 14 of this year, Bill Clifford, an American underwater explorer, said he identified the wreck of the Santa Maria, one of the three ships Christopher Columbus led on his first crossing of the Atlantic. The Santa Maria sank on December 25, 1492, after drifting onto a reef off the northern coast of Haiti the previous day.


Explorers, including Bill Clifford’s team, already visited the wreck in 2003 and identified a cannon believed to date from the 15th century. It has since disappeared.


UNESCO’s Underwater Heritage Convention, adopted in 2001, aims to ensure the safeguarding of underwater heritage, and support research and international cooperation in this field. The States that have ratified it — 48 to date, including Haiti — undertake to preserve this heritage, prevent commercial exploitation of sites, and fight the illicit trafficking in stolen artifacts.

Article Tags: #Haiti #UNESCO #wreck #Columbus #"Santa Maria"
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