On craggy rocks and in silent gullies at Lynyard Cay in the Abacos lay the fragments of an American-owned slave ship, the 129-ton, 88-foot schooner, the Peter Mowell.
Luckily, 390 of the 400 of its human cargo were able to clamber safely ashore – they were quite young: 96 men between 20 and 36 years, 37 women between 20 and 30 years, and 256 children between 6 and 20 years.
Thanks to the ever-changing winds of fate, though, they were not to be sold as slaves like the estimated 12-million Africans forced across the Atlantic over the course of the three-and-a-half century slave-trade era.
Rather, rescued by Ridley Pinder and other wreckers from Cherokee Sound, they joined some of the last of the 37,000 African-born immigrants who had been rescued in The Bahamas, whose descendants most likely make their homes there today.
But what is left of the ship intrigued archaeologist Michael Pateman from the Antiquities, Monuments & Museum Corporation of The Bahamas, a Nassau-based, non-profit, quasi-government agency, and archaeologist Corey Malcom from the Key West, Fl.-based Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society and more importantly – because the information gleaned will add to The Bahamas’ rich cultural history – what happened to its human cargo, crew and wreckers ?
Where are their descendants now and what stories do they have to tell ?
So, on the 152nd anniversary of its wreck, July 25, 1860, and partnering with William Mathers, of the Florida-based marine archaeological organization, Atlantic Sea Resources, they set out to see for themselves.
Using coordinates recorded by the governor of The Bahamas at the time (Bayley) to the Duke of Newcastle, they returned to the site and were able to spot piles of ballast stones that were scattered along the shoreline as its hull was ripped apart on the reefs, along with encrusted copper nails and spikes that had become concretized together over a century and a half.