Secrets of the Dead

Slave Ship Mutiny

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When the Meermin set sail from Madagascar en route to South Africa on a hot summer's day in 1766, the Dutch crew had no idea they were about to make history. The ship was filled to capacity with human cargo, slaves bound for hard labor building the Dutch colony, Cape Town. But the Meermin with its crew and cargo would never make it to Cape Town. Instead, in a dramatic altercation, the slaves mutinied and managed to overpower the Dutch crew, ordering the ship be sailed back to Madagascar and freedom. But through a sinister act of deception the crew turned the boat around each evening and made full sail for Cape Town. And so the circumstances for a dramatic climax -- and shipwreck -- were laid when the ship and its desperate passengers finally spied land. This program tracks the efforts of archaeologists, historians and slave descendents to discover the full story of this dramatic historical event. They want to learn what happened on the Meermin, how the slaves were able to overpower their captors, and why the ship ended up wrecked on a wild, windswept beach 200 miles east of Cape Town.


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