Monday, July 24, 2006

 

Slave ship expedition yields murky answers

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Gainesville.com
By Amy Reinink
July 24, 2006


Michael Krivor and Jason Burns' two-week expedition to the Caribbean didn't yield a definitive answer to whether the shipwreck off the Turks and Caicos Islands is the remains of the Trouvadore, a slave ship that crashed there in the 1800s.

The Jonesville marine archaeologists did find a previously undiscovered section of the shipwreck, artifacts that could help date the ship and adventure in the form of barracuda attacks.

"There were no eurekas - no shackles, no stern with the name 'Trouvadore' on it - so we still don't have a positive identification on the vessel," Krivor said. "But that's to be expected on project of this sort. We really accomplished a lot. We have a much better understanding of the wreck site itself, and I think we're all pretty happy with the end results."

Krivor, 38, and Burns, 34, both of Jonesville's Southeastern Archaeological Research Inc., were part of a team of researchers, divers and documentary filmmakers from across the country to spend the past two weeks in the Turks and Caicos Islands, located south of the Bahamas in the Caribbean Sea. It's the second trip the team has made to the islands to try to identify the remains of a shipwreck as being the Trouvadore, a slave ship from Africa that wrecked offshore in 1841, freeing the slaves and essentially creating the population of the islands.

Identifying the ship as being the Trouvadore could provide the islands' residents a material link to their past, and could fill in a gap in the historical record.

On the first trip in 2004, the team worked in wide strokes, looking for the wreck itself. This time, Krivor and Burns spent their time combing the area meticulously with sensitive equipment made to detect metal.

Krivor and Burns spent about 10 hours a day in a 12-foot inflatable boat with a small outboard motor, dragging a magnetometer through the water behind them. The magnetometer detects ferrous metal, and was essential in finding some of the trip's most major accomplishments.

It helped them find the cathead of the vessel, or the piece of the boat that supported the anchor, and led them to the discovery of the previously undiscovered section of the shipwreck.

They had to endure blistering sunburn and barracuda attacks to get it.

The magnetometer is shaped like a long, thin rod, and Krivor and Burns encased it in something like a floating noodle to keep it from dragging on the bottom.

"We started seeing lacerations in the foam protector," Krivor said. "We assumed it was from hitting it on the reef. When we pulled the noodle off at the end of the day, there were two barracuda teeth left in there. We never saw them attack, which is pretty amazing. Those cuts were razor sharp, so the attacks must have been pretty ferocious."

The team discovered iron artifacts and ceramics that may help researchers date the shipwreck, and took wood samples from the wreck to help indicate where the ship was built, Krivor said.

The artifacts will go to the Turks and Caicos National Museum for analysis and later, display.

Krivor and Burns said they're not disappointed to come back to Alachua County without knowing for sure whether the shipwreck is the remains of the Trouvadore - it means they could get to make another trip in the future.

"It's absolutely beautiful down here," Krivor said. "Where we were working, it was on a completely deserted side of the islands. There were no other passing vessels, and nobody else even around. I'd love to say we'll be back next year, but I think next year will have to be devoted to fundraising."


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