Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Barry Clifford on pirates

Barry Clifford

By Jef Otte

Besides maybe monster-truck driver, Barry Clifford has about the most badass job that exists: He's a real-life, bona-fide treasure hunter.

His 1983 discovery of the Whydah, a pirate ship wrecked off the coast of Cape Cod, provides the backbone of the Real Pirates exhibit currently at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and tonight, Clifford will talk about the process of finding that ship and the projects he and his crew are currently working on. But we got to him first.

In advance of that appearance, we caught up with Clifford to chat about growing up on the Cape and the particulars of what it takes to find a shipwreck.

Westword: Being a treasure hunter is not exactly the most common occupation. How did you get into that line of work ?

Barry Clifford: As a kid -- well, I wasn't really a kid, but when I was younger -- I was doing a lot of work related to diving; I had a salvage business, I was doing rescue work on ships that were distressed, and I had a major in history and sociology. So that and the folklore of shipwrecks, I just kind of mixed them together and made my own career.

WW: And it was your uncle who told you about the Whydah when you were a kid, right ?

BC: It was sort of one of those old Cape Cod folk stories, and he used to talk about it all the time. He used to say he knew somebody who went looking for it right after World War II and never found it. But it was something that always resonated in my subconscious, and the more I learned about sunken ships and archeological digs, the more I realized that there were all these sunken ships around the world that nobody had really looked for. They just never had the technology.