2004 Expedition Mission

X Never Marks the Spot


The broader objective of this project is to create a direct, very tangible, connection to the maritime history and African roots of the people of the TCI and and to fill gaps in the nation’s history. The discovery of Trouvadore can help  populations rediscover their cultural identity. It can also demonstrate how the study and protection of cultural remains, including shipwrecks, contributes to national pride and the education of future generations. The knowledge gained from this this project will add to the ongoing development of maritime exhibits in the TCNM, the production of a documentary film and, if Trouvadore is identified, will result in special exhibits and other media devoted to slavery in the TCI.

The scientific objectives of this project are: to conduct remote sensing and visual surveys of the fore-reef, reef, and lagoon to locate all shipwrecks and debris fields in the project area. To collect samples and data that will assist in the characterization of all sites and the identification of Trouvadore . To conduct a metal detector and visual survey of the beach and shore in the vicinity of Breezy Point for signs of a survivors’ camp. To produce maps and images that can be used in museum interpretation, research, a web site, and form the basis of a cultural resource database and site management program.

Recognizing Trouvadore

How can we identify Trouvadore’s remains? What specific artifacts might we expect to find on its site? At this stage we know very little about Trouvadore other than that it was described as a brigantine, and that it set sail from the coast of Africa with more than 200 slaves and a crew of about 20. A typical 19th-century brigantine was a two-masted, square-rigged ship with a gaff sail aft of the main mast and stay sails on both the main and fore masts. In order to carry a cargo of about 200 or more slaves Trouvadore would likely have been on the order of 30m in length and 8 m in beam. However, the main difference between brigantines and schooners was their rig, not their hulls, and it was a slight difference in rigging that could make a schooner into a brigantine. Therefore, other artifacts associated with the ship will be of more help.

Of potential assistance in identifying Trouvadore is a list of “paraphernalia” derived from the “equipment clause” in the Anglo-Dutch anti-slavery treaty of 1822 (Ward 1968:119). The presence on board a vessel of items in the equipment clause–even when slaves were absent–was considered sufficient evidence of a vessel’s involvement in the slave trade, and therefore it was subject to capture and condemnation. This equipment included extra bulkheads and spare lumber, iron manacles and chains, over-sized iron cooking cauldrons and mess tubs in addition to large quantities of victuals, extra water casks, grated instead of closed hatch covers, and an overabundance of firearms and other weapons.

Another clue could be the African Manilla, also called “slave bracelet money.”  It was used extensively on the “slave coast” of west Africa. The Manilla comes in sizes and forms, though it was usually made from a copper and lead alloy. The value fluctuated from time to time and place to place. In the 15th and 16th century male slaves went for 2 to 10 Manillas each.

Absent the preservation of manacles, cauldrons, and chain, glass and pottery may be the best clues to the identity of Trouvadore. The ship sailed from Spanish ports with Spanish crew that was replaced with Portuguese sailors when their numbers were drastically reduced by illness and death. The ship’s destination was the Spanish colony of Cuba. The belongings of the crew and the containers that held the ship’s food and supplies should reflect their origin and ports of call.