Western State alumnus behind big undersea find

Photos by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS—Undersea explorer Barry Clifford believes he has found the wreckage of Christopher Columbus’ flagship vessel Santa Maria off the coast of Haiti. Clifford said he is confident that archaeological work will bear out his claim. Clifford, shown during a recent news conference in New York, graduated from Western State College in 1969.

A diver measures a lombard cannon off the north coast of Haiti In a May 2003 photo. Explorer Barry Clifford says the site could be the wreckage of the Santa Maria, the flagship vessel of Christopher Columbus, which struck a reef and foundered on Christmas Day in 1492.



■ independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/exclusive-found-after-500-years-the-wreck-of-christopher-columbuss-flagship-the-santa-maria-9359330.html

■ western.edu/profile/alumnus/barry-clifford-undersea-explorer

■ cnn.com/2014/05/13/world/americas/christopher-columbus-santa-maria

Barry Clifford, a 1969 graduate of what is now Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, may have made one of the most important underwater discoveries in archaeological history.

Clifford, who lives in Massachusetts but still returns to the area to visit his children in Crested Butte, believes he has located the 500-year-old remains of Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria, off the north coast of Haiti, according to articles from CNN and the United Kingdom’s The Independent.

Clifford is one of America’s top underwater archaeological investigators, said The Independent, which first reported the story May 13 on its website.

The story was picked up by CNN and Western State, where Clifford studied sociology and history, played football and threw the javelin for the track team, according to a university website.

“All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck” is the Santa Maria, Clifford told The Independent.

Clifford is confident the wreckage is Columbus’ flagship, which ran aground in 1492, because the remains are stuck on a reef in about 10 to 15 feet of water in the area where the explorer wrote in his personal diary that the ship ran aground.

Plus, the footprint of the wreck fits the measurements of a vessel the size of the Santa Maria, The Independent article read.

“Now, of course, we have to go through the whole archaeological process, and we plan to do that within the next few months, but I feel very confident that we’ve discovered the site,” Clifford told CNN at cnn.com/2014/05/13/world/americas/christopher-columbus-santa-maria.

Clifford, who joined the board of directors for Western State Foundation in 2011, said he’ll work with the Haitian government to possibly excavate the wreckage.


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