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Cape Town's Slave Ship Secret

There have been very few shipwrecks found that were part of the global slave trade. In 2008, the Slave Wrecks Project began the search for more of the sunken ships. One in particular was the São José Paquete d’Africa, which foundered in 1794 off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. Marine archaeologist Jaco Boshoff studied documents and discovered that a misidentified shipwreck discovered in the early 1980s was actually the São José.  

An archival document found in the Arquivo Historico Ultramarino archive in Lisbon, Portugal, by Dr Lubkemann states that the São José left Lisbon on 27 April 1794 for Mozambique via Cape Town with 1,400 iron ballast bars in its cargo. According to Boshoff, the members of the Slave Wrecks Project think the bulk of the bars were used to pay for slaves from Mozambique, but some were left on board to offset the weight of the human ‘cargo’ on the ship.

On 3 December 1794, Captain Manuel Joao Perreira sailed from Mozambique for Brazil’s Maranhão state. Perreira was planning a stop in Cape Town to take on provisions before crossing the Atlantic, where he intended to sell the 512 slaves. However, the ship ran into trouble off the Cape Peninsula and foundered. More than 200 slaves died, while the survivors were sold into slavery in Cape Town.

The ship with its shackles and iron bars was hidden on the ocean floor for more than 200 years. Boshoff and his team have been studying and documenting the shipwreck for the past few years, and have brought some evidence to the surface. Artifacts from the São José will go on display in December at Cape Town’s Slave Lodge history museum. Read the story of the São José and its discovery in a gallery of text, images, and video at BBC Travel. -via Digg

(Image credit: SkyPixels)


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