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February 24, 2022 35 min

National Geographic Explorer Tara Roberts begins to understand the healing power of diving for shipwrecks from the slave trade when she learns of a ceremony that honored the 212 Africans lost aboard the Portuguese ship São José Paquete d’Africa. Diver Kamau Sadiki, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch III, and South African luminary Albie Sachs take turns describing the ritual, held in both Mozambique and South Africa, which brought tears, reflection, and resolution. Tara invites fellow Explorer Alyea Pierce to help visualize the centuries-long disintegration of the São José, which sank off the coast of Cape Town in 1794.


Want more?

Check out our Into the Depths hub to learn more about Tara’s journey following Black scuba divers, find previous Nat Geo coverage on the search for slave shipwrecks, and read the March cover story.

And download a tool kit for hosting an Into the Depths listening party to spark conversation and journey deeper into the material.


Also explore:

Find out more about the Slave Wrecks Project, the consortium of organizations working to uncover and document slave shipwrecks globally, hosted by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The Iziko Museums of South Africa provides a closer look at the wreck of the São José through its exhibition, Unshackled History: the Wreck of the Slave Ship, São José, 1794, which includes online resources.

Watch footage from a dive exploring the wreck of the São José off the coast of Cape Town’s Clifton Beach, and hear accounts from historians and the divers documenting the findings.

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