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UNESCO To Send Experts To Haiti To Examine Possible Wreck Of 'Santa Maria'

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced on Monday that it will provide the technical assistance requested by the Government of Haiti and send a mission to the site of the wreck, which may be that of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus's first voyage to America.

Haitian Culture Minister Monique Rocourt had asked for the support of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of UNESCO's 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, requesting that a mission of experts be sent to the site.

The agency said in a press release that it will send a mission in the coming months to examine the wreck located off the town of Cap-Haïtien, in the north of the country.

Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, expressed concern about the risk "of looting of underwater heritage sites off the shores of Haiti. She urged States "to join Haiti's efforts to find artefacts stolen from these underwater archaeological sites, notably the one that will visited by UNESCO's mission."

On 14 May, 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 25 December 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.

by RTT Staff Writer

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