Archaeologist begins search for wreck of slave ship that mutinied

In December 1765, the Dutch East India Company controlled the Meermin and sent it from Cape Town round the tip of South Africa to buy slaves on the west coast of Madagascar, 1,700 miles away. The crew picked up 147 slaves there, and set sail to return home. At sea, the Dutch crew ordered some of the slaves to clean the guns and some spears they had picked up as souvenirs. The quick-witted slaves used the arms to kill half the 60-member crew and ordered the survivors to sail the ship back to Madagascar.

The sailors did as they were ordered by day, but at night they steered the ship back towards Cape Town - at a faster pace. When the boat finally dropped anchor in Cape Town, some of the Madagascans went ashore, only to be overpowered by farmers. The rest remained on board until the ship hit a sandbank and they were captured. The authorities abandoned the damaged Meermin on the sand.

Now Mr Boshoff, who works with the government-run Iziko Museums in Cape Town, believes he can find the remains of the ship. He has already spent three years surveying with magnetometers the area he hopes to dig and is confident that the clutch of magnetic abnormalities near the mouth of the Heuningries River in the Western Cape indicate it is the place. He hopes to find shackles, spears and iron guns that will provide evidence of the battles that took place on board.

At least 30 ships are believed to have run aground in the dangerous waters off Struis Bay, at the southernmost tip of South Africa, but most have never been recovered. Historians often complain that while slavery has left a strong legacy, there has been very little archaeological and written evidence of its history.

The first wreck of a slave ship was found off Key West in Florida in 1972. Divers had initially thought the sunken ship was a Spanish galleon, until they unearthed an ivory tusk - evidence that the ship had carried African cargo. Since then, 10 slave shipwrecks have been found worldwide.

South Africa was for a time the centre of a global slave trade: in the days when the Dutch controlled the Cape, slaves were brought there from Sumatra, Madagascar, and other farflung islands. At one point the number of slaves in the Cape outnumbered free citizens.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering