In the beautiful by nature, Turks and Caicos Islands, lies a vast history of Shipwrecks that have graced our shores and banks several years ago.
There were over 1,000 ships that have come to grief within the boundary waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands – many of which have fallen over the reef edge into deep water and are not accessible today. Some of the shipwreck are well-documents, whilst the location of others is desperately both known and unknown. There are three shipwrecks that are well-documented with traces and artifacts retrieved and preserved over the years within the Grand Turk museum. The three are namely, The Trouvadore Shipwreck that occurred in 1841, The Esperanza Shipwreck of 1837, and the Molasses Reef Shipwreck of 1515.
The Trouvadore, a Spanish vessel participating in the slave trade industry. Slavery was outlawed in the British West Indies, including the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1834. This historical shipwreck occurred off of the coast of East Caicos, which resulted in the lost of many lives, but also many were saved. The slaves on board the Trouvadore were bound for the Cuban slave market. Approximately 192 Africans bound for the Cuban slave markets were saved. The slave trade was illegally enacted but the African slaves were liberated after the emancipation in this Crown Colony.
The Esperanza, which wrecked on the 10th of July, 1837, also carried slave cargo on its first voyage. There were roughly 320 slaves aboard the ship being transported. When the slave ship wrecked, the rescued slaves on The Esperanza ended up on what became a slave plantation in Middle Caicos called Haulover owned by Mr. Stubbs. In order to gain the support of local salt proprietors, 168 of the 192 Africans were distributed amongst salt pond owners on Salt Cay and Grand Turk on a one-year contract.
The Molasses Reef Shipwreck, one of the oldest shipwrecks known to grace the waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands was about 19 metres long, and dated back to around 1510-1530. What made this shipwreck stand out in particular from the rest, is that it is one of very few wrecks in the world that has been fully excavated, preserved, and published throughout all these years. Over 10 tons of artifacts were removed, which are now on display in Turks and Caicos Islands National Museum, located on Grand Turk, Front Street. Artifacts retrieved from this wreck are cannons, shot wooden hull pieces, surgical implements, bowls and storage jars, carpentry tools, metal portions of the rigging, and tailoring tools.
The shipwreck industry continues to be a part of the Turks and Caicos Islands as it dates back to many of the settlers who came, worked on other industries such as the Salt Industry and made valiant impact that has evolved Turks and Caicos to what it is today. Now, you may find ships that wrecked have become vessels for Tourists and locals to explore, and dive from. For more information on Ship Wrecks in Turks and Caicos, please visit the national museum in Grand Turk.