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James Preston (Jim) Delgado was born on January 11, 1958 in San Jose, California, USA. He showed an early interest in history and archaeology and at age 14 joined his first dig when he noticed human remains at a construction site. The graduate students from an archaeology class from San Jose State took Delgado under their wing; most of the finds were turned over to the university except the human remains Delgado had found, which were repatriated to their descendents and reburied. Delgado met with the mayor of San Jose to voice his concerns regarding the desecration of the past and was appointed, at age 14, to the City of San Jose Historic Landmarks Commission. Throughout high school Delgado joined local archaeologists in exploring sites and also worked as a guide at the New Almaden (mining) Museum.
Delgado studied history at San Jose State University and San Francisco State University where he earned his B.A in 1981. While at San Francisco State, Delgado joined the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). Delgado’s interest in maritime archaeology increased when he saw the wreck of the ship Niantic which had been unearthed by construction. Delgado served as Park Historian with the cultural resources management team at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area from 1979 to 1986, where he worked on documenting and preserving historic and archaeological sites, particularly ships and buildings along the buried waterfront of Gold Rush San Francisco.
From 1984 to 1985 Delgado studied at East Carolina University where he earned an MA in Maritime History and Underwater Research. He also taught US history and surveyed Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s beaches for shipwrecks. Next, Delgado joined an NPS team as project historian working on the wreck of the USS Monitor.
From 1986 to 1991 Delgado was the Maritime Historian for the National Park Service and the head of the Maritime Initiative, the US government’s maritime preservation program in Washington, D.C. Delgado’s work for the Maritime Initiative involved visiting and inventorying every known historic maritime resource including lighthouses, shipwrecks, shipyards, and floating ships and developing standards for their preservation and restoration. During his time with the NPS, Delgado also surveyed and explored the wrecks of the USS Arizona and USS Utah at Pearl Harbor, the sunken fleet of atomic bombed warships at Bikini Atoll, the Somers and many other shipwrecks.
In 1991 Delgado became the Executive Director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum (VMM) in Vancouver, British Columbia. During his time at the VMM, the Museum organized a re-enactment of the RCMP schooner St. Roch’s voyage through the Northwest Passage and circumnavigation of North America. As well, Delgado worked on the restoration of the Ben Franklin, a historic oceanographic research submersible.
From 2001 to 2006 Delgado co-hosted National Geographic’s The Sea Hunters television series with Clive Cussler. He has also worked on television specials for the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Explorer, the History Channel, A&E, and ABC.
He completed his PhD from Simon Fraser University in 2006.
In 2006 Delgado left the VMM to join the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) and was elected President and Chief Executive Officer of the INA in 2008. Delgado’s work for the INA involves public outreach, media relations, fundraising, membership, and project development.
In October 2010 Dr. Delgado left the INA to join the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as its Director of Maritime Heritage.
Delgado has written many articles and over 30 books, including: Nuclear Dawn: The Atomic Bomb from the Manhattan Project to the Cold War, Khubilai Khan's Lost Fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada, Gold Rush Port: The Maritime Archaeology of San Francisco’s Waterfront, Lost Warships: An Archaeological Tour of War at Sea, Across the Top of the World: The Quest for the Northwest Passage, Waterfront: An Illustrated Maritime Story of Greater Vancouver, Adventures of a Sea Hunter: In Search of Famous Shipwrecks,Encyclopedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology; Ghost Fleet: The Sunken Ships of Bikini Atoll, Pearl Harbor Recalled: New Images from the Day of Infamy, Great American Ships, To California by Sea: A Maritime History of the Gold Rush, etc.
Throughout his career, Delgado has led and participated in shipwreck expeditions around the world. These include explorations and dives of RMS Titanic, Carpathia, Mary Celeste, Maud, etc. He has also given many lectures and presentations regarding maritime archaeology and his books, and continues to do so.
Delgado and his wife Mary had two children, John and Beth. Delgado lives with his wife Ann and continues his work with the INA.
Functions, occupations and activities
marine archaeologist; historian; writer; television host
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Dates of creation, revision and deletion
Created December 17, 2012.
Revised by BCANS Coordinator, December 22, 2012.
Banks, Kerry. “Delgado’s Wrecks.” Westworld (Summer 2003): 38-44, 47-48.
Delgado, James P. DelgadoresumeJan2010.pdf. Available from http://jamesdelgado.com/archaeologist (accessed October 12, 2010).
“Personal History.” James P. Delgado Website. http://jamesdelgado.com/archaeologist/personal-biography (accessed October 12, 2010).
“Professional History.” James P. Delgado Website. http://jamesdelgado.com/archaeologist/professional-history (accessed October 12, 2010).
Institute of Nautical Archaeology, About, Past Presidents. "James P. Delgado, Ph.D. INA President and CEO (2006-2010)." http://inadiscover.com/about/past_presidents/james_p_delgado/ (accessed December 22, 2012).