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A short stroll to this cache that forms part of the Shipwreck Series. For the series methodology and more info visit SS: Shipwreck Series via the related web page link.
The Meermin was a 450 ton Dutch hoeker on her way back from Madagascar to Cape Town with a cargo of 140 slaves. Captain Gerrit Muller freed the slaves from their irons. This was against the rules of the Dutch East India Company, but he he felt that a healthy slave fetched a far better price at market.
A crewman, Johan Crause was left in charge of the slaves and he handed some firearms and assegais to a slave for cleaning. When he went to collect them, a slave tried to stab him and was shot. This ignited a mutiny and Crause was immediately killed. The slaves soon controlled the upper deck, killing the entire watch of 30 men with the exception of a couple who climbed the rigging and sheltered amongst the sails. The were persuaded to come down by the slaves who promptly killed them with assegais and threw them overboard.
For two days an uneasy equilibrium was achieved with the armed crew trapped below and the slaves, who did not know how to sail the boat, occupying the upper decks. The vessel was at the mercy of wind and tide. The trapped crew below surviving on raw potatoes and wine.
On the third day, Chief Officer Olof Leij came up with a plan and ignited a huge amount of gunpowder. This resulted in a large explosion which terrified the slaves. After threatening to blow up the ship, they agreed to a truce whereby the crew could come up on deck and sail the ship back to Madagascar. However the slaves could not navigate and did not realise that the Olaf sailed the boat east during the day and at night altered course and sailed back west.
On the fourth day they anchored offshore and Olof proclaimed that this was Madagascar. A contingent of 27 slaves decided to row ashore to verify that this was their homeland and would light a fire on shore if all was well. Meanwhile local farmers had gathered when they spotted the ship anchored offshore. They soon realised something was wrong when well-armed africans rowed ashore in VOC longboats and set up an ambush. Fourteen slaves were killed and the rest surrendered.
Tension began to build on the Meermin when no fires were lit, but Olaf had another plan and wrote two letters and threw them overboard in separate bottles. The tide was favourable and both bottles were found. The Landdrost was given the two messages and immediately ordered that three fires be lit.
There was jubilation on board, but when no boats returned to take the men ashore, the slaves cut the anchor ropes and the Meermin began drifting towards the shore. Meanwhile a canoe had been found and four slaves set to shore in it. They were then captured on the beach without a shot being fired. The remaining 108 slaves on the Meermin saw this and realised that they had been tricked. A fight broke out, but this time the crew were prepared.
In the midst of the fighting the Meermin ran aground on 9 April 1766. Olaf eventually persuaded the slaves to lay down their arms and they were soon back in irons. Captain Muller was tried for negligence and stripped of rank and discharged from the Company's service.
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