In the beginning of 2000 our team of historians, researchers, divers, maritime archaeologists, geophysicists, and documentary film makers launched the first of many expeditions to Sainte Marie, Madagascar where we discovered a number of shipwreck sites initially by the observation of ballast piles, cannons, timbers and a scattered exposed artifacts in the Bay of Pirates. The hypothesis was raised these shipwreck sites were that of the the pirate ships Adventure Galley (1699) commanded by the infamous pirate William Kidd, the Fiery Dragon (1721), the Great Mahomett (1699), the Mocha Frigate 1699, and a “Pilgrim Ship” (1721). A number of other shipwreck sites were also located in and around the entrance of the Bay of Pirates. The research team tentatively identified the Fiery Dragon of the pirate Captain William Condon (also known as “Christopher Condent” through the analysis historical evidence, a of a broad spectrum of artifacts, and comprehensive site data.
In addition our team conducted the initial surveys of what could be an early 18th century tunnel complex on Ile au Forbans in the Bay of Pirates. Deep vertical and lateral chambers were detected with ground penetrating radar and scattered iron artifacts were observed. The team believes that the tunnels were associated with the pirate settlements of Sainte Marie for the purpose of a strategic and defensive fortification, and as a possible location to hide stolen goods.
Multiple follow up missions have been led to further investigate the Fiery Dragon wreck site, other nearby wrecks and the tunnel complex on Ile au Forbans. The focus has been to obtain additional evidence of the nature of the sites and confirm their identity. The team developed a comprehensive study of the area by applying a combination of surveys including: side scan sonar, magnetometer, sub-bottom profile, ground penetrating radar, and surface.
Based on survey results, a rich concentration of artifacts, and the complexity of the shipwreck sites, it can be expected that subsequent expeditions will yield an exponentially greater amount of material culture and insight into the life of the pirates at Sainte Marie, Madagascar.
Future expeditions require continued careful planning and the organization the continued organization of financial support. The local museum at Ilot Madame needs additional structural renovations, access to technology, conservation materials, exhibit displays, staffing and profesional training. The Center therefor has continued to help try to reach these goals by funding museum renovations and artifact upkeep. Through the organization of strategic partnerships the Center will bring needed attention, resources, and sustainable support for the facility.
The Center is committed to a multi-year collaborative project at Sainte Marie. With the support of authorities in Madagascar and the local community at Sainte Marie Island, this project will continue to be successful in researching, recovering and preserving important cultural heritage for future generations.
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