Press Conference: Forgotten Slaves – L’Utile Shipwreck, 1761The wreck of the slave ship L’Utile near the island of Tromelin in the Indian Ocean in 1761 has inspired a new research and information programme, “Forgotten Slaves”, which will be presented at UNESCO on April 23, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Room IX).
L’Utile, a store ship of the French East India Company, left Bayonne in the south west of France for the Mascarene Islands on the17th of Novembre 1760 and was wrecked on the 31st of July 1761 near the shore of Tromelin (formerly known as the Ile de Sable), as it was carrying slaves from Madagascar to the Ile de France (present day Mauritius).
The crew took to the sea onboard a makeshift vessel, leaving 60 slaves on the island. They never kept their promise to come back for them.
Fifteen years later, on the 29th of November 1776, the Chevalier de Tromelin, Captain of the corvette La Dauphine, found eight survivors on the island: seven women and one eight-month-old child.
How did they survive all those years on a desert island, cut off from the rest of the world? Historical and geneological investigations are underway and excavations, both under water and on land, are about to be undertaken to solve this enigma.
At the press conference, the French marine archaeology research group, GRAN, which created the “Forgotten Slaves” programme, will present its programme which includes a system associating schools via the internet.
The “Forgotten Slaves” programme is supported from UNESCO within the framework of the International Year for the Commemoration of the Struggle Against Slavery and its Abolition (2004) and UNESCO’s Slave Route Programme.