Scott Wolter Fights Back on Controversial Documentary Series, Accuses UNESCO of Hating Successful Explorers
It took a few days, but our friend Scott Wolter has decided to weigh in on my conclusion that his new show, Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar, is the same documentary series condemned by the UN’s culture arm, UNESCO, as unprofessional sensationalism masquerading as research. I was right! The series, which plans to claim that pirate ships found on Madagascar are associated with evidence of a Templar presence, is indeed the same show, and Wolter is very upset about the UN criticizing it. He discussed the issue on his blog Friday night:
UNESCO hates Barry Clifford simply because he is the most successful pirate ship discoverer in history. A few months ago they displayed what I consider inexcusable unprofessionalism when they issued a press release filled negative statements about Clifford personally and about his underwater work a month-and-a-half before UNESCO set foot in Madagascar.
Note that it was not a press release but a full report that UNESCO released.
Wolter reached out to me by email Friday night to express his upset at Wikipedia and to ask whether I am working with his enemies to bias the online encyclopedia against his views. No, I do not concern myself with Wikipedia, though I have in the past corrected a few typos and added a couple of links to English translations of various documents.
It appears that Wolter is closing ranks with Clifford and the History Channel in imagining a vast international conspiracy against them. More typically, aggrieved parties accuse UNESCO of anti-Israeli or Eurocentric bias, not bias against pirate ships. The trouble is that while Clifford has found a number of shipwrecks, he has a habit of making grandiose claims about them that the evidence doesn’t support. In 2014, for example, UNESCO sent a team of 12 experts to Haiti to try to confirm Clifford’s claim that he found Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria. “Nails and pins found on-site were those of a more recent ship, being of a copper alloy, while the Santa Maria should have had iron and/or wood fasteners.” They did not simply send an action team to swat down Clifford’s claims out of jealousy and hatred, but rather they investigated only after receiving an official request for assistance from the Haitian Ministry of Culture. A similar process occurred in Madagascar, where Clifford claimed to have found Captain Kidd’s treasure. Madagascar officials requested assistance, and the UNESCO team determined that the “silver” Clifford and the History Channel filmmakers claimed to have found was actually lead and therefore not a piece of the legendary treasure.
What’s important to note is that the so-called “Templar treasure” claim of the Wolter-Clifford series includes the assertion that “Billy One-Hand” Condent’s pirate ship Fiery Dragon was also found in Madagascar. Clifford asserts that the Dragon was found near artifacts that show Templar and Masonic symbols. The UNESCO team examined the site where Clifford alleges he found the wrecked ship. They concluded that it was not the Fiery (or, more accurately, Flying) Dragon but was more likely an eighteenth century Asian vessel.
Indeed, the analyses show that the possible axial keelson, the frames, the ceiling and both interior and exterior planking are entirely made of teak wood. We can therefore conclude that the ship was not made in a European shipyard, as the teak tree species does not grow in Europe. Teak is indeed a tropical tree found mainly in India, Burma, Laos, on the Philippines and generally in the Asian region. […] No historic sources have been found indicating that a European style ship, built in Asia, was captured on its return to Europe, therefore the STAB team suggests focusing on the identification of this wreck as a non‐European ship.
The team suggests that the ship Clifford found was one of Condent’s, just not the one Clifford wants it to be. They believe it may actually have been a known Arab ship he had captured, looted, and sank around 1718-1720. That ship was never recovered, but two Arabic coins were discovered on board the ship Clifford found.
In other words, if UNESCO were actually biased against Clifford for finding ships, they wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of trying to help him out by looking at everything he got right in order to better understand how he came close to being correct. Also, the UNESCO investigation does not directly contradict Clifford’s allegation of Templar-Masonic influence on Madagascar. It’s Clifford’s self-aggrandizement and his growing History Channel conspiracy theories that are undercutting his work.
Finally, in case you’re interested, Scott Roberts, John Ward, and Micah Hanks are asking for $50,000 on Go Fund Me to fund their new umbrella organization to “bridge the gap” between mainstream and fringe points of view.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.