Wrecks of Danish slave ships identified in the Caribbean – The Post

Wrecks of Danish slave ships identified in the Caribbean

Christianus Quintus and Fridericus Quartus vanished back in the early 18th century

The story of the ill-fated voyage has been told in Jakob Olling’s new book ‘Dobbeltmytteriet på de danske slaveskibe’ (photo: Jakob Olling)
October 18th, 2018 11:13 am| by Christian W
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A team of Danish and US archaeologists have identified the wrecks of two Danish slave ships, Christianus Quintus and Fridericus Quartus, that sank in the Caribbean in 1710.

The wrecks were actually discovered off the coast of Costa Rica in the 1970s, but it is only now that it has been possible to identify them with a high degree of certainty.

“A number of scientific studies have been done on the wrecks and we are very sure that they are the remains of the two Danish slave ships Christianus Quintus and Fridericus Quartus,” said Andreas Kallmeyer Bloch, a marine biologist taking part in the expedition.

READ MORE: Wreck of rare Nazi u-boat type found in Skagerrak

Dramatic demise
One of the keys in the identification process was a cargo of almost 40,000 Danish bricks, a strong indication that the ships hailed from Denmark.

The last fateful voyage of the two ships is shrouded in drama and mystery involving hurricanes, mutiny, starvation, disease and navigational errors.

The two ships are considerably decomposed and a huge coral reef is growing on the wrecks. Despite this, the wrecks are still visible on the seabed, including canon, a large anchor and the massive pile of brick.

Bloch contends that the wrecks are a unique opportunity to learn more about Denmark as a seafaring nation and the life aboard slave ships at that time.

The discovery is part of the new book ‘Dobbeltmytteriet på de danske slaveskibe’ (‘The Double Mutiny on the Danish Slave Ships’) by Jakob Olling, which is being published today. The book details the last voyage of the two ships.

The ill-fated final voyage:


6 November – 5 December  1708: The two slave ships Christianus Quintus and Fridericus Quartus depart from Copenhagen

16 – 25 April 1709: The two ships arrive at Christiansborg in Guinea to find that the fort is unable to receive the ships due to a local conflict. The ships are heavily delayed and little food is obtained for the continued journey

15 September 1709: The slaves aboard Fridericus Quartus rebel but the effort is quashed. Two Danish sailors are injured

16 September 1709: The key figure behind the rebellion is tortured and executed. His body is hoisted up the mast and other participants in the rebellion are executed

28 September – 1 October 1709: The ships depart from Guinea heading towards the West Indies

23 October 1709: The two ships meet at Cape Lopez and join up for the journey to the West Indies. There is still not enough food aboard the ships for the voyage

30 December 1709: The desperate food situation leads to rations for the crew, many of whom are already ill

10 February 1710: Fridericus Quartus runs out of food, but is given more by Christianus Quintus

14 February 1710: Land sighted, but it is discovered that the ships are way off course in the Caribbean and far from their St Thomas destination. The ships try to enter Portobello in Panama

18 February 1710: 55 slaves are dead on Christianus Quintus and 82 have perished on the Fridericus Quartus

2 March 1710: A mutiny arises after the crew recognises the coast of Costa Rica. The slaves are put to land and the shops’ gold is distributed. The ships are then sunk

3 March 1710: The Danish crew hijacks two British ships, which they force to sail towards Portabello, but they are captured by Spanish privateers and instead end up in a Portabello prison