Elia - 1995 Nautical Shenanigans

Elia - 1995 Nautical Shenanigans - iii tit rfl E13...

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Unformatted text preview: iii tit rfl E13 NAUTICAL SHENANIGANS BY RICARDO J. ELIA Walking the Plank: A True Adventure Among Pirates by Stephen Kiesling. 259 pages. Ash- land, Oregon: Nordic Knight Press, 1994. Sl2.95. T o be a successful underwater trea- sure hunter you must follow a basic business strategy. First, you need a shipwreck that may have contained treasure. You don’t necessarily have to find the wreck, at least at first; just claiming to find it will work for a while. Next, you should imite a celebrity to join your search, prefer- ably one with political connections. That will help you get publicity, which is not difficult since the media are attracted to treasure hunters like sharks to blood. The publicity will bring in investors, which is the critical part of the whole enterprise—getting other people to spend their money on your adventure. ‘ No treasure hunter has applied this formula more‘ successfully in the past decade than Barry Clifford, the discoverer of the pirate ship I’lrhya’a/z, which sank off Cape Cod in 1717. Clifford scored early with the media by inviting john F. Kennedy,f_]r., to dive with him in l983; that year People magazine ran a feature article on, Kennedy and Clifford’s “zany crew” of “golddig- gcrs.” The next year, Clifford found the wreck, which he claimed was worth $400 million; In l985 I’amdr magazine ran a cover story that described Clifford as “the tnan who discovered a $400 million pirate treasure," a misleading description since. even after ten years of dig— ging, the value of the recovered artifacts is estimated at less than SlO million. In 1987 a limited partnership took control of the project and V] \.\‘l‘.\RY/ l-‘ezttktwkv 199.3 raised some $6 million through the sale of shares to investors eager to “own a piece of history." The sal- vage operation has been conducted under a federal permit. which imposed some degree of archaeo- logical involvement on the project. including a consenation program for treating the artifacts. To entice investors to put up the millions of dollars necessary to finance the project, the partners appealed to \Valter Cronkite, who featured the ll-"lgra’a/z salvage in a l987 television segment produced by CBS News. They also wanted to publish a book about the ll'lgrdalz project, to be titled 771? Pimle Prime. The book was to tell the story of Black Sam Bellamy. the ‘l‘l'7trda/I's captain, with a swashbuckling Clif- ford cast as a modern version of the eighteenth-century pirate. In 1989 freelance journalist Stephen Kiesling was hired to write the “'72de book. He went to Cape Cod and spent time with Clifford and members of his team, including divers, collaborating archaeologists, a historian, and business associates. As he conducted interviews and researched the project, Kiesling became disenchanted with Clifford and the W/zydalz salvage and sus- pected that the project was nm at all what was being portrayed to the public. ' In the end, Kiesling could not bring himself to write the hagiogra- phy that was expected of him. He was sued for breach of contract. countersucd, and eventually settled the case. Kiesling ended up writing not 7711' Pirate Prime, but lib/It'th Ilu' Plan/t, a scathing expose. of the ll7gr- (Ia/1 project. (A nOvelist was later hired to write 77w [’imtr Prime with Barry Clifford; their book was pub- lished in 1993.) North American ARCHAEOLOGY from RZONA v «u A.D. 1 250 Ancient Peoples of the Southwest LAWRENCE W. CHEEK Color photographs by Arizona Highways ContributOrs An introduction to what we know about the peoples who inhabited the Southwest befOre the arrivals of the Europeans. Graced with mere than 200 illustrations, beau- tiful c010r photographs, and a map, "Indian Ruins of the Southwest," that provides information on 25 prehistOric sites. Distributed for Arizona Highways. $49.95 cloth Lewis H. Morgan on Iroquois Material Culture ELISABETH TOOKE R In 1849 and 1850, Lewis H. Morgan, one of America's first anthropologists, assembled the most comprehensive nineteenth- century collection of Iroquois made artifacts. In this richly illustrated. volume, Tooker has brought together much previously unpublished material. $65.00 cloth: $35.00paper. AVAILABLEIN BOOKSTORES QR FROM The University of Arizona Press Call toll-free 1-800—426-3797 See reader serv-ce p 89 5. Elia. Ricardo (1995). Nauticle Shenanigans (review of book walking the Plank, Archaeology, Vol. 48, No. 1I January - Februagy 1995, 79-81,. Archaeorlror ical institute of America r "“H‘l m n. 7!) mamwwrnmcm Kiesling clearly has no love for Clifford, regarding him as little more than a charlatan, a perception shared by most of the people in PValkz'ng the Plank, including Clif- ford’s own divers and associates. There are some humorous, if unkind, scenes like the one where Clifford jumps aboard the salvage ship, surveying the scene “like an admiral,” while his crew “greeted him with all the pomp and defer- ence due a delivery boy arriving late with a cold pizza.” More seri- ous are the stories Clifford tells about himself and the project that are outright fabrications. (One for- mer Clifford associate described him as a “salvor of other people’s stories”) Still, everyone involved in the project seemed willing to toler- ate Clifford because they all had a stake in the marketing of this man as a latter-day pixate and flamboy- ant salvage entrepreneur. Here are a few of the revelations reported in Walking the Plank: .Clifford discovered the site of the Whyahzh not, as Walter Cronkite reported, through extensive docu- mentary research, but by noticing a sign that the National Park Service had for years displayed on a cliff overlooking Marconi Beach, where Guglielmo Marconi transmitted radio signals to Europe in 1901. The sign, which was later removed, identified the area offshore as the likely site of the W'hjdah because .coins from the ship had occasion- ally washed up on the beach. oTl’lC project members revealed their lack of prior research by fail- ing to take account of the serious erosion of the coastline at Marconi Beach. Searching for the Whjdah some 200 yards offshore, they* recovered an iron rod that Clifford publicly claimed was the mizzen Stay of the Whydah. In fact, it was a piece from one of Marconi’s an- tenna towers, which had been erected on land at the turn of the century; coastal erosion had caused the towers to fall into the sea. The I/Vhydah lay 300 yards farther off- shore. oIn an early test excavation, ARCHAEOI.OGY 2-5 divers secretly threw in coins that had been discovered elsewhere at the site. They were found and duly «recorded by an unsuspecting arch- aeologist. .Clifford claimed in The New York Yimer that he had discovered the HMS Husrar, a British frigate that sank in New York’s East River- in 1780 with a payroll worth an estimated $576 million. In fact, Clifford’s sonar survey had only located old pilings; the Hurrar, it turned out, had long ago been stripped and removed by other salvors, as Clifford’s team learned when they belatedly conducted archival research on the vessel. The most damaging revelations in l’Valking the Plank, from an archaeological perspective, come from Rob McClung, Clifford’s erst- while friend and fellow treasure hunter, who eventually broke off his association with Clifford and the Whjdah project. According to McClung, .by the time the first team of archaeologists arrived to work with the salvoxs in 1984-, the treasure hunters had already exposed and seriously disturbed the core area of the Whydah site. Using prop-wash deflectors, which create large craters in the seabed, divers had blown open enough of the site to be able to map almost 40 can- non as well as concretions, coins, and artifacts. McClung, who pre- pared sketch maps of the site, stated that every large artifact found at the site, with the exception of the ship’s bell, was uncovered at that time. Moreover, the artifacts were originally on different layers; the prop-wash blow holes had “homog- enized” the site. Clifford and his team never informed the archaeologists about the extent of their “testing” and did not Show them McClung’s site plans. McClung allowed Kiesling to publish some of the maps in Walk- ing the Plank and, if one compares the site area exposed before the archaeologists arrived with‘what was later recorded by them; there can be no doubt that the damage Continued on page 84 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 1995 [I73 11;] EL) [:3 [[3 ii I: I [I] E: 3 $3 I; H M yer-7:; .wxzmgm, 7 36 3a Jami“ awamnnmmmcwqw, s eras-ahxiiuiamn ;__M,.aie,g=tsmwe w, r on a Continued fiom page 8] done by the treasure hunters was thorough. The archaeologists seem to have spent years recording what was a completely disturbed site. McClung’s information also reveals how the project deliberately manipulated events to suit its pur- poses. For example, in 1988 Clifford announced the discovery of the ship’s caboose, or galley. The caboose had, in fact, been clearly labeled on one of McClung’s 1984 site maps. Why did Clifford delay making the announcement for almost four years? Kiesling suggests that the “discovery” was announced to renew public interest in the sal- vage at a time when the project was trying to raisethe final $1.5 million installment in investment capital. walking the Plank reveals the seedy face of the underwater sal- vage business, an industry that squanders precious archaeological resources in what amounts to an elaborate confidence game foisted on a gullible public by treasure hunters, businessmen, the media, and, sadly, even some who call themselves professional archaeolo- gists. The book shatters any re- maining credibility for a project that was once touted as a model for the successful collaboration betWeen commercial salvors and archaeolo- Stephen Kiesling’s memoir of his “true adventure among pirates” is a lively and informal account based on interviews, notes, and recollec- tions. Its lack of a scholarly appara- tus does not detract from the story’s human interest, and the book is highly recommended for anyone interested in how treasure hunting- works- It is also an effective anti- dote to The Pirate Prince: Discovering the Priceless Treasures (y. the Sunken Ship VVhydah, by Barry ClilTord with Peter Turchi (Simon & Schuster, 1993). _ As for Barry Clifford, he’s taken his medicine show abroad, using the old formula that has served him so well. His latest project is search— ing for a treasure barge. belonging to Charles I that sank in Scotland’s ARCHAEOLOCY Firth of Forth in 1633. Clifford’s new celebrity associate is Prince Andrew, who is bringing along a Royal Navy ship to help in the hunt. The publicity mill is hard at work: stories about the venture have appeared everywhere from_ '17ze Times of London to USA Today, which recently described Clifford as the man who “found the $400—mil- lion remains of the Whjd .” I RICARDO J. Em i: an associate pro es- sor (f archaeology at Boston Universiyr. NEW 'l‘rru-zs. Asia Finney, Ben. Voyage (f Redircovegl: A Cultural Odysst Through Polynesia. 401 pages. Berkeley: University of Cali- fornia Press, 1994. $30.00. Irwin, Geoffrey. M Prehistoric Explo- ration and Colonisation of the Pacific. 240‘pages. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. $17.95. Kessler, lAdam T. Empires qund the -Great Wall: The Heritage of Genghis Khan. 176 pages. Los Angeles: Nat- ural History Museum of Los Ange- les County, 1994. $50.00. Murowchick, Robert E., ed. China: Ancient Culture, Modern Land. 192 pages. No'rman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1994. $34.95. Oleson, Asta. Afghan Craftsmen: 'Ihe Cultures of Three Itinerant Communities. 328 pages. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1994. $50.00. 'Central & South America Abrams, Elliot M. How the Maya ' Built their World: Energetics and Ancient Architecture. 192 pages. Austin: Uni- versity of Texas Press, 1994. Cloth, $30.00; paper, $14.95. Baudez, Claude-Francois. Maya Sculpture qf Copa'n: The Iconograph}. 320 pages. Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1994. $60.00. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 1995 ...
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