Researchers to study sunken remains of last U.S. slave ship

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Mobile, Alabama — Researchers are returning to the Alabama seashore adjacent Mobile to measure the sunken remains of the last enslaved ship to bring captive Africans to the United States much than 160 years ago.

The Alabama Historical Commission says a squad volition statesman a 10-day valuation of the remnants of the Clotilda connected Monday. Experts person described the wreck arsenic the astir implicit enslaved vessel ever discovered.

The bureau has hired Resolve Marine, a salvage and services company, for enactment involving the Clotilda. The vessel was scuttled successful the muddy Mobile River aft illegally dropping disconnected 110 West Africans connected the Alabama seashore successful 1860, decades aft Congress outlawed the planetary enslaved trade.

The institution plans to moor a 100-foot-long barge astatine the tract with instrumentality to enactment divers and store artifacts that are removed from the h2o for investigation and documentation.

"It is simply a tremendous work to guarantee the Clotilda is evaluated and preserved," Aaron Jozsef, the task manager for Resolve Marine, said successful a statement.

279304398-305932178391719-8846450711060137424-n.jpg A sonar scan showing the wreckage of the Clotilda successful 2019. SEARCH, Inc./Alabama Historical Commission

Some person advocated for removing the wreckage from the h2o and placing it connected show successful a caller depository that's being discussed, and officials person said the enactment volition assistance find whether specified a task is possible.

The Clotilda's voyage was financed by a affluent Alabama businessman, Timothy Meaher, whose descendants inactive person extended onshore holdings astir Mobile. Enslaved upon their accomplishment successful Alabama, immoderate of the Africans started a community called Africatown USA conscionable northbound of Mobile aft the Civil War, and galore of their descendants inactive unrecorded there.

Ship wreckage successful the stream was identified arsenic being that of the Clotilda successful 2019, and officials person been assessing the tract and deciding what to bash with it ever since. While tiny parts of the two-masted woody schooner person been brought to the surface, researchers person recovered that astir of the vessel — including the pen that was utilized to imprison the captives — remains intact connected the stream bottom.

Working with the authorities and SEARCH Inc., Resolve Marine said it volition execute enactment including an appraisal of the Clotilda's hull and a constricted excavation of artifacts. It's besides processing a program to conserve the wreckage wherever it's presently located successful the stream a fewer miles northbound of Mobile.

The work, which is being funded with a $1 cardinal authorities appropriation, "will adhd to the corporate knowing of the vas and the site's imaginable to output important archaeological accusation astir the vessel and its last voyage," Jozsef said.