Diving With A Purpose: The Black Scuba Divers Documenting  Slave Shipwrecks
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Diving With A Purpose: The Black Scuba Divers Documenting Slave Shipwrecks

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Parker Diakite
Parker Diakite Oct 2, 2020

In 1827, a slave ship known as the Guerrero sank off the Florida coast while being pursued by a Britain warship. British sailors aboard the HMS Nimble warship called were enforcing a ban on the slave trade that was put in place 20 years prior by Great Britain.

The Nimble’s crew fired two warning shots at the Guerrero as the slave ship and from there, a battle begun between the two ships with cannon and musket fire. 

After a nearly five-hour battle,  the Guerrero tried to continue its journey but crashed near the Florida Keys.

41 enslaved Africans were killed in the wreck and the hundreds of survivors were recaptured and shipped to Cuba or transported to Key West before resettling in Liberia.

A lot of what we know about the Guerrero wouldn’t be known if it weren’t for Florida Keys historian Gail Swanson, who first uncovered a log from the Nimble in 1992 that described these events.

Thanks to her discovery, Ken Stewart and the late Brenda Lazendorf were able to dive deeper to explore more about the Guerrero.

Diving With A Purpose

Stewart and Lazendorf founded Diving with a Purpose (DWP) together in 2004 with the intention of finding and documenting what is left of the Guerrero.

Today, divers of all ages take part in DWP’s maritime archeology programming and learning to identify and map shipwrecks in the Florida Keys and beyond.  DWP goes as  far away as South Africa.

“It’s uncovering a bit of people’s pain. It’s important to know and tell these peoples’ stories,” Stewart told ABC News during an interview. “It’s important that Black people have a role in telling their own stories.”

From its maritime archaeology program that teaches the basics of underwater archaeology to veteran divers to training young divers between the ages of 16 and 23 from diverse backgrounds as underwater archaeology advocates, there are various to become involved with DWP.

Visit the DWP website to learn more by clicking here.