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
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'