Salvaging science

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Science  09 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6218, pp. 117-119
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6218.117

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For archaeologists, submerged shipwrecks offer a bounty of information from a single moment in time. But researchers are waging increasingly bitter battles over access to this sunken scientific booty. Archaeologist Charles Beeker, 61, claims some success in this battle, uncovering key information for science and preserving historic wrecks from treasure hunting. A big man with a no-nonsense demeanor that can border on gruffness, he has investigated more than 200 shipwrecks and visited thousands more. He identified Captain Kidd's ship, the Quedagh Merchant, which famously sank off the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic in 1699, and helped get the wreck preserved as a dive museum. Now he thinks that a wreck off the north coast of Haiti could be Christopher Columbus's flagship, the Santa Maria. Other experts disagree, but Beeker isn't backing down, and he presented his case at an archaeology meeting in Seattle this week.

  • * Michael Bawaya is the editor of American Archaeology magazine.

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