Expedition Unknown – Secrets of Columbus – S02E07

First of all, congratulations to Josh on the news he’s going to be a father!

image In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue

Or so the story goes. Josh is out to discover details about the life of Christopher Columbus. Where did Columbus come from, where is he buried, where is the wreckage of the Santa Maria and did he really discover America?

Not much is known of Columbus and his early life. He appears on the stage as a fully formed man without a past or early childhood. He emerges as a map maker and navigator with the main ambition of finding a new route to China by going West. Of course, neither Columbus or anyone else knew what lay in the way of going such a route. But Columbus sets out on his journey and becomes one of the most celebrated figures in maritime history. He is made an Admiral and becomes governor of the lands he has discovered.

In order to get some background about the ships of the time, Josh is able to get aboard a replica of the Santa Maria and to be honest, it’s surprisingly small. Considering the distance they were to travel and the supplies they would need to carry, these are pretty meager boats. And as we see, even in only slightly choppy water, the boat rocks in a wild fashion. Had the original sailors hit any sort of severe weather, this boat would have been a goner.

Josh then heads to Haiti where the boat supposedly ran aground. The story goes a little something like this. Columbus hands over the helm while he goes to get some rest. The helm is then turned over again, this time to a young boy. With his inexperience, the boat crashes into the reef. But that story seems a little off considering how skilled a navigator and seaman Columbus was. Why would he turn over the boat when so close to a reef?

After the ships runs aground, Columbus strips the wood from the decks and builds fort La Navidad. He leaves a large envoy of men behind while he sails back for reinforcements. Columbus made friends with the native Taino people, but their relationship deteriorated so when Columbus returned, his men were dead and the fort destroyed.

Some believe the Santa Maria was wrecked on purpose to give Columbus a reason to come back to this New World. If everything had gone according to plan, there might not be another voyage or commission. A good theory, so the goal is to find the wrecked ship and learn more. But where is the wreckage?

Josh meets with Jean Claude who has looked for shipwrecks for 40 years and the Santa Maria for 15. He knows of over 200 wrecks in the area. He takes Josh out into the waters and they do indeed discover a wreck, but alas, it’s too new and the wrong type of ship. But wait, there’s more. They find another wreck and while it’s closer to the correct time period, it’s still not the right kind of ship, but it’s worthy of more investigation. This clearly shows plenty of ships have crashed in this area.

He then meets up with Manuel Rose, a researcher who believes the Santa Maria was wrecked on purpose. Josh and Manuel head inward on the shores of where the ship would have run aground and where the Fort of La Navidad would have stood. They meet a local man who almost immediately takes them to a large cannon sticking out of the ground. It’s not the type of cannon they’re looking for, but clearly there was a shipwreck here and possibly a small settlement. Again, there are all sorts of maritime relics in this area, so the chances of them finding something that belonged to Columbus are actually pretty good. Hopefully a research time will be able to catalog this are as well.

From there, Josh meets Alain Norstein who believes he is well on his way to discovering the settlement of La Navidad, however, it’s inland from the coast and is basically a field. We have to admit, the landscape has changed quite a bit in the 500 years since Columbus was at sea, and just because something is land now, doesn’t mean it’s always been that way.

Using basic tools, the men are sifting through the area and make a pretty nice discovery. They unearth pottery from the Taino people which suggests this would have been a significant settlement. Another impressive series of artifacts that hopefully will be cataloged in the future.

So at this juncture, there are quite a few leads about the sunken ship, but it all remains a mystery. Columbus may have wrecked the ship on purpose, may have oppressed the native Taino people who turned against his crew and he may have been a touch on the manipulative side to get what he wanted – further rights at exploration.

While they may be close to discovering the wreckage of the Santa Maria, what about the actual remains of Columbus himself? Where is his final resting place? On that front, it seems he’s buried in two different places.

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