"By looking at the archaeological sites and comparing them to other early settlements such as St Augustine, we can try to understand what went wrong. The fate of the lost (galleon) 'Santa Isabel' is one of the great mysteries in the early exploration of the Pacific, but now we have the chance of finding out what happened to them in the forests of a remote Pacific Island," Gibbs said.

He said the Spanish were also looking for the continent of Australia and would have found it 200 years before other Europeans if they'd taken a slightly more southern route.

At the site where he suspects the colony stood, Gibbs said his team used a magnetometer, which measures the tiny differences in magnetism between disturbed soil and undisturbed soil. The instruments found a 20-foot by 20-foot square that appears to have been some kind of structure. Excavation will determine what it is, he said.

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