The Mariner's Mirror Podcast


Maritime Africa: African Canoemen

This begins a handful of episodes that will explore the maritime history of Africa. We begin with the fascinating story of African canoemen.


African indigenous seafaring canoemen operated as middlemen between European traders and the coastal estuaries, rivers and land of West Africa. The topography of the coast often necessitated their involvement in trade because it was variably rocky, broken by sandbars and shallow waters, or treacherous in other ways to large sailing ships. Canoemen allowed access to trade by using surfboats that could surmount the waves on the coast in ways European boats could not. They often were hired as navigators and pilots on European ships or worked as menial labourers or ordinary seamen on European ships. Canoemen also frequently came alongside European ships to board them and trade goods or enslaved people. As a result, when Europeans began to build trading entrepots, such as Elmina Castle in Ghana, Monrovia in Liberia, or Cap Verde in Senegal, they hired canoemen to contract out trade.


To find out more about this little-known aspect of African maritime history Dr Sam Willis spoke with Megan Cructcher, a PhD Student in the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University who is looking into the roles, identities, and material culture of these canoemen in West African maritime history, especially during the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries.


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Iconic Ships 19: HMS Agamemnon - Nelson's Favourite Ship

Our series on Iconic Ships continues with one of the most battle-honoured ships of Nelson's Navy: HMS Agamemnon. Today we got back to those days of the wooden walls to hear about this 64-gun Third Rate that saw service in the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic War. She fought in many of the major naval battles of those conflicts and had a reputation as being Nelson’s favourite ship. After a remarkably eventful career her working life ended in 1809 when she was wrecked off the River Plate on the coast of Uruguay. The location of the wreck has been known since the early 1990s but in recent months has become the focus of efforts to preserve it, as the wreck is threatened by erosion, treasure hunters and ship worm decay.To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Mary Montagu-Scott, director of the museum in the historic shipbuilding village of Buckler’s Hard on the Beaulieu River in Hampshire, where HMS Agamemnon was built. Mary has always had a passion for maritime heritage, the sea, and sailing. She is currently active in maritime archaeology, keeping boatbuilding skills alive and as a trustee to the National Museum of the Royal Navy, HMS Victory, HMS Medusa and is commodore of her local yacht club. Mary's dream is to dive on the wreck of HMS Agamemnon, built in Bucklers Hard in 1781, and to see this great ship's story brought to life again on the original slipways.