The United Nations is sending experts to Madagascar to assess a claim by underwater explorers that they had found treasure and a shipwreck belonging to the pirate Captain Kidd. Ulrike Guerin, a specialist in underwater heritage for UNESCO, said today that experts will examine artifacts at the site where American explorer Barry Clifford had been operating. The team is expected to arrive in Madagascar by the end of June, she said. UNESCO is also concerned that Clifford's group may have damaged the site, alleging the explorers did not have an archaeologist with proper qualifications with them and did not present a proper plan to Madagascar's authorities before diving. October Films, which was filming Clifford's work, said a detailed plan had been submitted and that a respected marine archaeologist was on hand at all times to supervise.
October Films said artifacts discovered by Clifford were handed over to the government and that the expedition is funding the restoration of a local museum and a small lab to preserve the artifacts. Last week, Clifford said he found a silver bar that he believes belonged to William Kidd, who raided ships in the late 17th century and was executed in London in 1701. Clifford presented the bar to Madagascar's president. The area, a pirate hideout when Kidd was active, offered safe harbors close to maritime trading routes. It's not Clifford's first run-in with UNESCO: Last year, he said he found the wreck of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus' lost flagship; UNESCO dismissed that claim. (Read more Barry Clifford stories.)