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An underwater explorer who believes he has located the 500-year-old remains of Christopher Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, off the northern coast of Haiti said on Wednesday he hopes to begin excavation as early as next week.

Barry Clifford, a Massachusetts marine investigator who recently led a reconnaissance expedition to the site, said any start of the excavation would depend on approval from the Haitian government.

In this May 2003 photo, a diver measures a lombard cannon adjacent to a ballast pile, off the North coast of Haiti, at a site explorer Barry Clifford says could be the wreckage of Cristpher Colombus' flagship vessel the Santa Maria. Clifford said evidence that the wreck is the Santa Maria, which struck a reef and foundered on Christmas Day in 1492, includes ballast stones that appear to have come from Spain or Portugal and what looks like a 15th century cannon that was at the site during an initial inspection but has since disappeared.Brandon Clifford / AP

Speaking at a news conference in New York, Clifford also said he needs to locate a facility to potentially house any of the artifacts.The remains were discovered in about 10 to 15 feet of water near a reef, according to Clifford and his exploration team.

"I think the evidence is overwhelming that the ship is most likely the Santa Maria," he said.

— Reuters
A replica of Christopher Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, sails circa 1892.Library of Congress via Reuters