Tantilizing Clues Discovered

How Two Easter Island Idols Led to the Discovery of a Slaveship


The long-forgotten story of Trouvadore began to emerge in 1993 when the late founder of the Turks and Caicos National Museum Mrs. Grethe Seim and Dr Donald H. Keith found a letter at the Smithonian Institution in Washington, DC about two “African Idols” that were orignially from a shipwreck in the Caicos Islands.

The letter was sent in 1878 from artifact dealer George Gibbs and described two artifacts:

“Two African idols, found on board the last Spanish slaver, of wood with glass eyes [schr “Esperenza”] wrecked in the year 1841 at Breezy Point on the Caicos Islands. The slaves from this vessel were taken possession of by the Government and brought to the Grand Turk Island. – The captain of the slaver, escaped the penalty, (by being a Spaniard), of being hung according to the British laws. The slaves were apprenticed for the space of one year and they and their descendants form at the present time, viz the year 1878 the pith of our present labouring population”.

The wooden idols turned out to be from Easter Island in the Pacific and not from Africa, as originally believed. But the discovery of letter and later the idols, now at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, set in motion the search for Trouvadore.

Researchers were commissioned to find references to this sunken slaver at the Public Record Office, London, and soon enticing details emerged. Early on it was discovered that the ship that sank in 1841 was Trouvadore and not  Esperenza. Gibbs had confused two slavers that wrecked off the Caicos Bank. Esperenza wrecked in 1837 and all the survivors were taken to the Bahamas. Since the research started, archives in 8 countries, on three continents have been combed to find the details of Trouvadore.