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Explorer: Salvage of Columbus' Ship Must Start Quickly to Stop Looters

Marine investigator Barry Clifford speaks during a news conference at the Explorers Club in New York, May 14, 2014.
An explorer who claims to have found the sunken remains of Christopher Columbus' flagship, Santa Maria, said salvage operations must start quickly to prevent looting.

Marine explorer Barry Clifford said he has already started talks with the Haitian government and hopes he can start work next week. He said there is nobody watching over the wreckage right now.

The ship is on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea off northern Haiti -- the same place where Columbus wrote that he and his crew abandoned ship after hitting a reef on Christmas Day, 1492.

Clifford said he now has strong evidence that this is Columbus' ship. He and his crew first found it in 2003, but was unable to identify it then as the Santa Maria.

Clifford said he would like to put anything recovered from the ship on public display and use the proceeds to help Haiti.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. It has still not fully recovered from the 2010 earthquake.

Christopher Columbus is the Italian-born explorer who set sail in 1492 to seek a shorter sea route from Spain to Asia. He landed in the modern-day Bahamas and also stopped in Cuba and the island of Hispaniola before returning to Spain.