London: Shipwreck off the coast of Haiti may be the remains of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus` flagship from his first voyage to the Americas, according to reports on Tuesday.
Underwater explorer Barry Clifford believes the expedition he led to find and investigate the wreck may finally have unearthed sufficient proof to establish its authenticity -- 11 years after he first investigated it.
"This is the ship that changed the course of human history," he told CNN.
The ship was found in the area where Columbus said the Santa Maria ran aground more than 500 years ago, Clifford said.
"It is the Mount Everest of shipwrecks for me," Clifford, 68, said.
But the ship is not a new discovery -- he and his team first investigated it in 2003 and brought up a cannon from the depths.
Clifford said archaeologists "misdiagnosed" the cannon at the time.
He said that two years ago, having done his own research into cannons used in Columbus` time, "I woke up in the middle of the night and said, `Oh my God,` " Clifford said.
So this year he returned to the wreck with a team of experts in tow and took careful measurements of the ship and a range of photographic evidence.
That evidence is "very compelling", said archaeologist Charles Beeker of Indiana University.
The ship "still has attributes that warrant an excavation to determine the site`s identity", Beeker said.
"Barry may have finally discovered the 1492 Santa Maria."
Clifford is making plans to return to Haiti next month to meet with local officials and establish what steps to take.