It was 52 years after the U.S. had banned the international slave trade when Timothy Meaher, a wealthy slave-owning planter, boasted that he could smuggle in a ship full of slaves.
Historical documents indicate that Meaher hatched the plan with ship captain William Foster, and on July 7, 1860, the Clotilda entered Mobile Bay carrying 103 slaves. It would be the last known time slave owners sailed an African slave ship to the U.S.
…”My sense is that they’re on to something,” says James Delgado, a senior VP at a research firm called SEARCH, former director of the Marine Sanctuaries Maritime Heritage Program at NOAA, and National Geographic explorer. Delgado has been involved with shipwreck excavations off the West Coast, and he adds that more work is needed before the discovery can be confirmed.
That the ship was burned may be what helps archaeologists uncover its remains, says Delgado. Steam generated by a fire’s heat has been known to extinguish flames in lower parts of burning ships, he says. He also suspects the mud may contain DNA evidence of human excrement, a frequent find with historic slave ships.