Jim was privileged to work as archaeologist and host of the international TV documentary series The Sea Hunters for its full six-season run (2001-2006). The Sea Hunters, produced by Eco Nova Productions, aired on the National Geographic and History Television Channels and was watched by over 42 million viewers in 172 countries worldwide each year. It now plays on in reruns and in a DVD series of selected episodes.
During his adventures with the The Sea Hunters, Jim formed another extended family. Below, read Jim’s thoughts on his Sea Hunter friends and an excerpt from an exclusive interview with History Television.
Here Jim poses with fellow Sea Hunters and friends Clive Cussler and Mike Fletcher in Clive’s office in front of a model of the famous ghost ship Mary Celeste, whose burnt and broken bones the team located and identified on a Haitian reef.
Jim with fellow Sea Hunters Warren Fletcher, Bill Jardine (who edited several of the shows), John Davis and Mike Fletcher at the end of a long dive day off Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.
Jim, on his Sea Hunter family
Truly the grand master of adventure and shipwreck tales, Clive’s wild tales and vivid imagination are grounded in the fact that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. He is a detailed and careful researcher, and the tangled threads he weaves make me a fan – so imagine how I felt when I was offered the chance to be on his TV show – and as the host. My favorite times are when I can sit down either in person or on the phone and talk wrecks with Clive.
Mike is one of the hardest working people I know and one of the best divers I have ever met – if not the best (tied with Warren of course). If the Fletchers cannot dive it, then it cannot be dived. Mike’s passion for wrecks, for history, and the show have helped make The Sea Hunters a success. Mike is not only the lead diver and underwater camera, he is directing and writing shows, the broadcasters and the public love the work he is doing. My only complaint is that he looks so darn good on camera compared to me [sigh].
He’s young, strong, good-looking, gets all the female attention and has a full and adventurous life ahead of him. I hate Warren (just kidding, Warren!) Like Mike, Warren is an exceptional diver and he makes a real contribution to the show and for the team. I have never met anyone with his stamina or abilities in the water other than Fletcher Mod 1 (Mike), and Fletcher Mod 2 (Warren) is a unique (and I’m sure he would say an improved) version. I am always comfortable and know that things will be the best, especially underwater, when Warren and Mike are there. They’re more than teammates – they’re friends.
The poor producer always gets slagged for budgets, schedules, and just in general. John is a hard working, brilliant guy with a passion for wrecks, and it was his hard work and determination that assembled our team, put it into gear, and made it work. John was a regular cast member for the first few seasons until 1) either someone at home decided he was having way too much fun, or 2) the realization that he needed to stay in the office and raise the money, ensure the broadcasters were happy, and oh, raise the money (which is always needed) came to the forefront. I miss him in the field, but I do not miss his snoring (I was often his roommate). Thanks to John, we are now in season five!
Intrepid cameraman, dog lover, food hound, connoisseur, exceptional photographer (and cinematographer) and goodwill ambassador to the show from Newfoundland, Marc is great to work with. He always try to film me looking as good as I possibly can (a challenge) and he has added a great deal to the show. Marc’s sense of humor is tremendous and a show just isn’t a show without him.
Johnny is a multi-talented man of mystery, music, and a master of camera and sound. He makes us all sound good (yet another challenge) and he, well, he just sounds good. A musician of note, Johnny has brought the house down on a few occasions when I have been there. He is a rock on which the show is anchored – dependable, always in good humor, and with an exceptional sense of fun. I am convinced that it is John Rosborough alone who ensures that The Sea Hunters are welcome wherever we travel.
Kathy Smith – Executive Assistant and Honourary Sea Hunter
Where would I be without Kathy? Kathy shares the passion for the past and for sea hunting, and is the vital link that helps me share more history with all of you out there. She is my strong and capable right hand, managing multiple webmaster and administrative tasks with complete dedication and enthusiasm. On top of everything, full of great ideas, Kathy is the day-to-day hard worker behind JamesDelgado.com and I’d be lost without her!
An Exclusive Interview with History Television and James Delgado
Delgado explains what it’s like to be a key member on one of the world’s most famous dive teams.
HistoryTelevison.ca: I have heard your profession described in a variety of ways: anthropologist, underwater archeologist, historian, author and explorer to name a few. Which job title do you find most fitting to your life?
James Delgado: I’m an archaeologist who was trained anthropologically-that is, the basis of my interest in the past comes from a passion for knowing more about people, and how we behave. Shipwrecks offer a chance to study human behaviour through wreck events, which always seem to bring out the best-and the worst-in people. I was also trained to be a historian when I was in school, which fits nicely with being a shipwreck archaeologist because the branch of archaeology I belong to is closely affiliated with historical archaeology – the study of the recent past (that is, someone has written about it!). Being a “sea hunter” means I get to be an explorer sometimes, and when I write about it all, then I’m an author. What this all means is that I’m usually way too busy, but having fun.
HT: The television series has solved some incredibly famous sea mysteries from the Carpathia and the Andrea Gail to Catherine the Great’s Vrouw Maria and the haunted Mary Celeste. In your opinion, which Sea Hunters find is the most intriguing?
JD: There are a few…Vrouw Maria is one because of the incredible preservation of this intact ship from 1771 and the crates of Catherine the Great’s lost art, followed for me by the Mongol invasion fleet of Kublai Khan’s failed 1281 invasion of Japan, and our dives into the flooded Nazi factories and concentration camp at Mittelbau-Dora. So much of what we see intrigues me, though, which is why I wrote Adventures of a Sea Hunter-to share the intrigue, the passion, and the incredible stories we encounter when we dive.
HT: Your partner, Clive Cussler, has been quoted as saying: “There aren’t many thrills that parallel swimming through a shipwreck. I’ve always compared it to walking through a cemetery.” How would you personally describe your underwater adventures?
JD: I see my underwater adventures-and those of fellow sea hunters Mike and Warren Fletcher-as privileged times to touch the past, thrilling opportunities to risk it all for science and history, scary moments when you almost do not make it back, and a unique chance to see the history preserved in the darkness of the depths. Diving shipwrecks is an emotional roller coaster, and many of the wrecks I have explored have left me some lasting and profound memories, especially Titanic, USS Arizona, and USS Merrimac-as well as sunken or flooded places like Mittelbau-Dora.
HT: Who presents you with your next underwater challenge? Do you have any input into where the series will take you next?
JD: The divers come up with some of the ideas of where we will go, and what we will search for. Clive Cussler always has a suggestion, and, well, I have a list… Mike Fletcher knows many people around the world, and he has brought some of our more amazing adventures to the table, like Vrouw Maria and Wilhelm Gustloff. John Davis, our producer, is also well-acquainted and well known, and he’s introduced some fantastic dives. We also get input and advice from viewers all over the world, and that’s great! We like hearing from the people who enjoy The Sea Hunters.
HT: How long does each project usually take to execute from start to finish? Can you walk us through the regular process of coming up with an episode idea to the airing of that particular show?
JD: It usually takes about a year, sometimes longer. It begins with an idea-Mike will say, “I’ve heard about this wreck, was it ever discovered?” or I will tell about a colleague’s project…or Clive will simply say, “Let’s go find this wreck.” Then we begin the detailed research. That can take some time, especially if we have to search for a wreck. It is not that easy-you need to have some idea of where a ship sank, and in some cases, even having a position, from a ship’s log, or a survivor’s account, does not mean that “X marks the spot.” When the team searched for Carpathia, there were several positions on a chart-where Carpathia‘s radio operator reported she was sinking, where the German U-Boat that torpedoed her said she sank, and where the ship that rescued Carpathia‘s survivors said she sank. It turned out Carpathia was not near any of those points. But these different positions did help us define a search area on the ocean to start looking.
We’re also looking for the people stories, the connections to real life that make these wrecks such a compelling dive. Because this is for television, we also need to find images, historical photos, plans, portraits of the people, or for more modern stories, footage.
Then we have to plan the logistics of the survey, the dives, and of course just getting there, which can be difficult when you are going to a remote place like Disko Bay, where we dived on the lost Arctic ship Fox. You’re not just flying people in. We travel with sidescan sonar, with heavy dive gear, film equipment, and in some cases to spots where we have to go through difficult customs clearances. Then try planning a trip to a remote island (like we did last season in Panama) where you have no electricity, and no place to live except the deck of an open boat or a tent on an insect-infested beach.
Then we go…and those trips can take some time to just get there. We work hard, sometimes around the clock. When our team finally arrives home, there are a few months of preparation to make a completed episode…and I have archaeological reports to write!