The Musée de l'Homme in Paris hosts an exhibition on the "forgotten slaves" of Tromelin. On this island discovered by France in 1722, dozens of Malagasy slaves were abandoned and died.

Long stayed away from the shipping routes, the island was discovered in 1722 by a French ship of the Indian company which called it "island of sands", in reference to the beaches that surround this small island 1700 m long over 700 m at the widest.

In 1761, a frigate from Bayonne embarked 160 slaves, men, women and children, in Madagascar. The boat runs aground on the reef belt of the île des sables. The crew of about 140 sailors docked on the island with about sixty slaves who did not die drowned in the holds.

To read: Will France give up the island of Tromelin?

After building a boat, the sailors manage to reach Madagascar but without the slaves remained on the island. Despite several requests, the governor of the region, furious that the ban on the slave trade was violated, refuses to help the slaves.

The last survivors, seven women and one child

It is necessary to wait, 1776 so that the last survivors, seven women and a child, are saved by the knight of Tromelin, commander of corvette, whose name will be given to the island.

This tragedy of the slaves of Tromelin was only very recently studied. Since 2006, several archaeological expeditions on "forgotten slaves" have made it possible to know a little more about their conditions of survival. Some buildings were built from coral blocks and the fire was maintained thanks to the wood of the wreck. The novelist Irène Frain publishes in 2009 The castaways of the island of Tromelin.

Infographic: The claimed islands of the Indian Ocean

Since the end of the war, the island of Tromelin has also found a scientific function. In 1954, the French authorities set up a meteorological station and built an airstrip. Administratively, in 2007, Tromelin incorporated the "scattered islands of the Indian Ocean", the fifth district of "Southern and Antarctic Lands", an overseas territory.

Bernard Gorce



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