Remembering The Slave Ship The Zong

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The slave ships are a part of history. They were special ships that were used to cart Negro slaves from the West Coast of Africa to the United States. The route across the Atlantic Ocean normally took between 6 to 8 weeks and the slaves chanied and mancled below deck suffered a high attrition rate and about 10% died. The dead slaves were thrown over board and were the feed of the sharks that followed the slave ships in packs.

 One of the most notorious ships was the Zong. This ship was constructed in England and was to be used especially for  carrying slaves across the Atlantic. The Zong was an all wood structure and had special enlosures below deck to house the slaves. A replica of the Zong is still available and moored in the Thames at London. It is now a museum ship and the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery was celebrated aboard this ship recently.

 The Zong is famous for its voyage across the atlantic under command of  captain Luke Collingwood. This was the first voyage of Captain Collingwood  as the captain of a  slave ship. this voyage took place in 1781.

Collingwood sailed from Dakar  with  more than 400 slaves in its holds. But the ship because  variety of problems was after 6 weeks only in the mid Atlantic and still far from Jaimaca , where it was headed. Collingwood consulted his crew and despite opposition, it was decided that 120 slaves who were sick and infirm would be cast into the ocean. This was a cold blooded decision and the slaves were manacled together and cast into the ocean. As a show of soliderity 10 more slaves jumped into the waters to the chagrin of the Captain.

Having lightened his hold, the ship reached Jaimaca a little before Christmas in 1781. The Ships owners  filed a compensation claim for the 130 slaves thrown over board. The case was heard in London and the insurance company refused to pay the claim amount. The reason was that the Captain had falsely claimed that the reason for throwing the slaves over board was shortage of fresh water. In Jaimaca when the ship  docked, it  had over 400 litres of water.

 None of the crew were tried for murder for the deaths of 130 Negroes. On the contrary the Attorney General of England in a statement said that the slaves were just merchandise and good men could not be punished if merchandise was thrown over board. Thos e were terrible times and now 200 years later the Zong can be seen in London  on the river Thames.


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