Discoverer of potential wreck of Columbus’ Santa Maria a graduate of Maine Central Institute

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Underwater explorer Barry Clifford recently made waves when he announced on Tuesday that he believes he has discovered the wreck of the Santa Maria, one of the three ships Christopher Columbus sailed on when in 1492 he reached what is now known as the Americas.

Clifford, who also discovered the wreck of the pirate ship Whydah off the coast of Massachusetts, is a 1965 graduate of Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield.

According to a profile of Clifford published in the Spring/Summer 2013 edition of the MCI Alumnus Magazine, Clifford attended boarding school at the Pittsfield private school, graduating in 1965. He went to college at Western State Colorado University and eventually began his life in the water in the mid-1970s. In 1984 Clifford discovered the wreck of the Whydah, providing a unique look into the world of piracy and of the maritime history of the late 18th century — and finding four and a half tons of sunken treasure in the process.

Clifford found the wreck he suspects to be the Santa Maria back in 2003, off the coast of Haiti, but it took him more than a decade to assemble enough evidence to offer what he believes is proof of the ship’s provenance. If confirmed, it would rank up with the discovery of the wreck of the Titanic as one of the most significant underwater archaeological discoveries in history.

“This is the ship that changed the course of human history,” Clifford, 68, said in an interview the CNN. “It is the Mount Everest of shipwrecks for me.”
Clifford will return to Maine in August of this year, to receive MCI’s Distinguished Achievement Award. He will be honored during the school’s reunion weekend.
Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a UMaine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.