As most of you are aware, yesterday Scott Wolter announced on Twitter that his new series is called Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar and will be burned off in back-to-back Saturday episodes on the History Channel beginning September 12 at 9 PM ET. The History Channel is silent about the series and what it will cover, offering no description and no publicity, but Shaw Media in Canada, which runs the History Channel north of the border, provided a synopsis under the working title Lost Treasure of the Knights Templar back in June. The title has apparently been changed since its announcement in June, perhaps to make it seem less fringy and more he-man adventure, and maybe also because there was already a book and a three-film movie series with the same title.
Renowned underwater archeologist and adventurer Barry Clifford, along with a team of on-land explorers and experts, attempt to solve a mystery that dates back hundreds of years. Searching for the Knights Templar treasure that supposedly rests at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, the series provides exclusive access to an unprecedented discovery of five pirate ships. From exploring hidden caves and burial grounds to ancient stone structures and thick jungles, each discovery unearths clues to a fascinating puzzle.
If this isn’t the same show, it would be a remarkable coincidence to have two shows looking for the Templars’ pirate treasure debuting at the same time on the same channel. That said, to be entirely fair, I can’t prove they’re the same, nor has History returned my requests for information about the show. But since Shaw says that the show is the “Canadian” premiere of a program from the U.S. History Channel, I’m pretty sure they must be the same show. It seems that Wolter is one member of the “team” supporting Clifford in the global fringe history Avengers team tracking the Templars.
From the description, it has become quite clear why History is trying to bury the show: UNESCO recently accused the 70-year-old Clifford of being utterly and completely wrong about his alleged discovery of Capt. Kidd’s treasure off the coast of Madagascar, which was to have been the climax of a History Channel documentary series—apparently this one. With the United Nations declaring the find a case of mistaken identity, and the “silver” Clifford found nothing but lead, History undoubtedly is looking to downplay yet another controversy over faking history. It didn’t help that the producer of the documentary, Sam Brown, leveled accusations against UNESCO and claimed a widespread conspiracy against himself and Clifford.
UNESCO accused Clifford and the History Channel of actively ignoring international law and of jeopardizing real research:
The work of the film team and its lead‐explorer, undertaken in spring 2015, as well as prior work by the same explorer, was distinguished by a media‐led approach, which has not respected the regulations of the 2001 Convention, and which jeopardized the scientific understanding of the sites concerned and the preservation of the artefacts recovered.
Clifford went on to accuse UNESCO of anti-American bias and claims that academics and governments are politically motivated to suppress his research.
Indeed, back in June, when conducting the “research” for this documentary, Clifford told the Daily Mail that he had connected Captain Kidd and the pirates of his era to the Knights Templar. He alleges that he discovered Templar and Freemasonic material on land near the Fiery Dragon, an eighteenth century ship captained by William “Billy One-Hand” Condon that Clifford claimed to have found in 2013: “We also found a very early statue of Christ from the 13th or 14th century from the Fiery Dragon and masonic symbols and a Templar symbol on the beach of the careening spot directly to the west of the shipwrecks. It’s rewriting the history of the Indian Ocean,” Clifford said. The Mail added that the Fiery Dragon was part of Clifford’s documentary—undoubtedly the one now being burned off without promotion.
According to the history books, the actual ship was the Flying Dragon, captained by Christopher Condent (who went by many names), which was burned on St. Marie (off Madagascar) in 1721, where Clifford claims to have found it. Condon intentionally sank the Fiery Dragon off Madagascar in exchange for a pardon from the French, with no treasure aboard. The booty was divided among the crew, to the tune of £3,000 per crewman.
Without seeing the alleged Templar and Masonic symbols, there is no way to know how old they are or what they are, and the medieval Christian statue might well have been booty from medieval Arab voyages, which had explored Africa since the early Middle Ages. In other words, he provides no reason to suspect that the pirate ship had anything to do with the material found on the beach, and even if it did, finding Masonic symbols during a time when the Masons were active is proof of no conspiracy.
In June, Clifford believed he had found two tons of silver and unmeasured amounts of gold, but when the silver turned to lead and Clifford and his History Channel producer descended into angry rants against the United Nations, academics, and everyone who disagrees with them, it seems History decided to cut their losses, minimize Clifford, and recast the show as a Templar conspiracy series to burn off with little fanfare.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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