The Turks and Caicos National Museum in collaboration with Ships of Discovery have confirmed the existence of a wooden shipwreck near Breezy Point on East Caicos. The announcement has been made following a two week expedition surveying inside and outside the reefs on the Northern shore of East Caicos in search for Trouvadore, a missing slave ship that has been described as ‘the Plymouth rock of the Turks and Caicos Islands’. The wooden remains have been described as “a promising discovery” by Dr Donald H Keith, lead marine archaeologist for Ships of Discovery.The expedition, sponsored by the Hartling Group, developer of the Sands at Grace Bay and The Palms, Turks and Caicos Tourism Board, Royal West Indies Resort, Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association, Ocean Club Resorts and funded by the Friends of the Turks and Caicos National Museum, set sail on August 29th and in spite of delays due to tropical weather conditions resulted in the identification of both a wooden and an iron shipwreck and several other potential sites.
The wooden shipwreck was found by chance when towboarders decided to pass between two coral heads and saw pieces of a wooden skeleton of a ship, the keel and some of the exterior hull planking lying on the sand between Black Rock and Breezy Point. In addition divers found some stone ballast and part of what appears to be an ornate brass letter or number in the vicinity of the site. Dr Toni L Carrell, a wooden ship specialist explains “the ballast, the timbers and the dimensions point to the wreck being from a wooden ship contemporaneous with Trouvadore.”
Land archaeologist and Director of the Turks and Caicos National Museum Nigel Sadler is delighted with the find. “Even if the wreck turns out not to be Trouvadore, it does prove that other wooden hulled vessels of this period could still be preserved in TCI waters. The iron shipwreck is an unexpected find, worthy of further investigation and exciting because every shipwreck tells a story.”Ê
Records found in the Americas, Bahamas, UK, Cuba and Jamaica confirmed the existence of Trouvadore - a ship that wrecked off East Caicos in 1841. Its cargo of 193 Africans, captured to be sold into slavery, miraculously survived the wrecking. As slavery had been abolished in the British oversea
The crew were sent off to be prosecuted for illegal slave trading and shooting one of the women survivors on the beach as she tried to escape. On the last day of the survey, Nigel Sadler and James Hunter located a stone cairn, a manmade stone structure used to mark boundaries or burial areas near Black Rock directly South of the wooden shipwreck. More work will need to be done on the cairn to ascertain whether it is related to the shipwreck or the Trouvadore story.
Over 30 possible finds worthy of further verification, many objects related to the iron shipwreck, and two anchors were found by marine archaeologists supported by the crew of the M/V Turks and Caicos Explorer. The finds were identified through an arduous schedule of towboarding, snorkeling and scuba diving outside and on the reef as well as in the shallows close to the sandy and iron shore of the large uninhabited island.
After assessing the data found during the Trouvadore expedition, the Turks and Caicos National Museum hopes to apply for a further licence to continue the work to uncover the underwater cultural heritage of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The arrival of Trouvadore survivors in 1841 increased the small population of the TCI by 7%. The Museum believes that such a sharp increase now means that all Turks and Caicos Islanders are linked by blood or marriage to this one incident. Emmy Award-winning documentary-makers Windward Media have been captivated by the story and the search and are making a documentary for PBS.
For further information on Turks and Caicos visit www.turksandcaicostourism.com