It has long been rumored in the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) that the ancestors of part of the present population arrived directly from Africa when the ship that was carrying them wrecked somewhere in the Caicos Islands. Archival research conducted over the past five years confirms this and identifies the ship as the Spanish slaver Trouvadore. The next important step is to look for any remains of Trouvadore – to find tangible links to the intangible.
Aerial View of East Caicos shown at left
What might be left of Trouvadore?
Based on archival documents, we know that extensive salvage was undertaken in 1841, hardly surprising as the locals had grown up as “wreckers”. Salvaged items, including sails, rigging and chain cables, were sold for £71.3.5.
This tells us that the ship must have been in shallow water. Wooden vessels rot away over time and therefore only timber buried and protected by the sand will survive. What we expect to find though are items that identify this as a slave ship. The British Navy set up “the Equipment Clause” that allowed them to confiscate ships with certain equipment on even if they weren’t carrying slaves. This included metal grilled hatchways to the holds to allow air to the slaves, large numbers of cooking pots, excessive amounts of chains and shackles. It is these items that we are looking for.
This archaeological search and hopeful recovery of any remains will provide a tangible asset which will make it easier to tell the story in a museum display (it is planned that Trouvadore story becomes the pivotal exhibition in a new Museum on Providenciales) and easier to prepare a traveling exhibition to go to all the countries that have assisted the research process or are linked to Trouvadore.
The expedition went to sea from August 28 to September 11, 2004. Under the auspice of the Turks and Caicos National Museum in cooperation with US-based Ships of Discovery , the science team was joined by documentary film makers Windward Media. Using the T&C Explorer as a base of operations, the team used a variety search and identification methods. After two weeks of surveying, tow boarders spotted a wooden shipwreck between two coral heads. More work will need to be undertaken on this promising discovery in order to find out if it could be Trouvadore.
The expedition was sponsored by premium sponsor Hartling Group, developers of the Sands at Grace Bay and The Palms,the Turks and Caicos Tourism Board,the Royal West Indies Resort, the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association and Ocean Club Resorts
The expedition was made possible with the support of the Turks and Caicos Islands Government and the Friends of the Turks and Caicos National Museum.