Ryan Espersen gave a presentation on the project “No Dollar Too Dark: Free trade, piracy, privateering and illegal slave trading

Dr. Ryan Espers­en, the former Director and co-founder of Saba Archeological Center SA­BARC, visited Saba on Saturday, where he shared insights into the history of 19th-century free trade, pi­racy, privateering, and ille­gal slave trading that took place on Saba and several other northeast Caribbean islands.

Dr. Espersen will be au­thoring a book on the vari­ous occurrences stemming from the privateering esca­pades in this era. Through the Department of Ar­chaeology at the University of Cambridge, he conducted a two-year project named “No Dollar Too Dark: Free Trade, piracy, privateering, and illegal slave trading in the Northeast Caribbean.”

Dr. Ryan Espersen gave a presentation on the project “No Dollar Too Dark: Free Trade, piracy, privateering and illegal slave trading in the Northeast Caribbean”.

“I want to write a book that someone who walks off a cruise ship can pick up, read and enjoy it and also for people on the is­lands to learn about this part of history,” he said.

In his presentation, he shed light on how the Car­ibbean Sea and the Atlan­tic became infested with pirates and privateers dur­ing the 19th and 20th cen­turies as part of the Latin American Wars of Inde­pendence and the later Cisplatine War.

Dr. Espersen highlighted that certain islands in the region, particularly St. Thomas, St. Barths, St. Eustatius and Saba, pro­vided an ideal political and economic environment for collisions between government officials and merchants to smuggle and launder goods, ships, and people during the wars. These islands became a part of an international smuggling and laundering network and as a result of this there are potentially many dozens of intention­ally sunken prize ships that were captured and sunk between Saba and St. Eu­statius and as well offshore St. Barts.

Dr. Espersen also re­vealed that a 3D seafloor scan conducted about two years ago aimed to locate old wrecks that were ini­tially sunk to hide traces of piracy. Many targets were spotted, which will be fol­lowed up in the near fu­ture. He noted that many of these ships would be lo­cated in waters far beyond dive limits and would have been stripped of important valuables.

During this era, many ships were left abandoned at Well’s Bay or Ladder Bay as part of the priva­teering schemes on Saba. The island was interna­tionally well-known and desired by privateers for illicit trading because it was historically ignored by the Dutch government and provided coverage from other islands, particularly on its west side.

Dr. Espersen noted that during archaeological ex­cavations of Mary’s Point over the years, some arte­facts related to these ships were discovered, notably carpentry equipment and remains of an ottoman women’s waist belt made of gold-plated metal.

The Daily Herald.

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