PODCAST

Into the Depths

National Geographic

Black scuba divers across the world are searching for buried shipwrecks from the transatlantic slave trade, when millions of enslaved Africans were trafficked to the Americas during the 15th to the 19th centuries. A new six-part podcast series, Into the Depths, follows National Geographic Explorer Tara Roberts as she sets off on the journey of a lifetime to meet the divers, marine archaeologists, descendants of those brought over on ships, and historians investigating the lost stories of the slave trade. She’s inspired to share their accounts both to expand the historical record and to honor the estimated 1.8 million unsung souls who perished during the Middle Passage. Along the way, Tara meets up with her family and friends, spiritual advisers, and even a poet to help tell those ancestral stories, and delves into her own roots—challenging her assumptions about home and belonging.

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Introducing: Into the Depths
Introducing: Into the DepthsEpisode 1: Trusting
National Geographic Explorer Tara Roberts upends her life—including leaving her job—to join a group of Black scuba divers searching for the wrecks of ships that carried enslaved Africans to the Americas. The journey will require an uncomfortable reckoning with the traumatic history of the slave trade. Then she learns about legendary diver Doc Jones and the underwater memorial he placed at the wreck site of the British ship Henrietta Marie in honor of the 274 Africans who had been trafficked to the West Indies from its cargo hold. As fellow National Geographic Explorer and poet Alyea Pierce gives the captive Africans a voice and speaks their names, Tara realizes there is far more to this history than pain and trauma alone. Want more? Check out our Into the Depths hub to learn more about Tara’s journey following Black scuba divers, find previous Nat Geo coverage on the search for slave shipwrecks, and get a sneak peek at the March cover. And download a toolkit for hosting an Into the Depths listening party to spark conversation and journey deeper into the material.   Also explore: Find out more information about Diving With a Purpose and its work training adults and youth in maritime archaeology and ocean conservation. Dive into the records of the more than 36,000 voyages made during the transatlantic slave trade, including time lines, maps, and 3-D reconstructions of slave ships. Students can learn more about the Henrietta Marie in journalist Michael H. Cottman’s book Shackles From the Deep.
27-01-2022
38 mins
Episode 2: TrainingEpisode 3: Building
10-02-2022
31 mins
Episode 4: Disassembling
National Geographic Explorer Tara Roberts heads to Africa, her ancestral homeland. She visits Doors of No Return, walks the slave trail in Benin, and learns about the long legacy of African free divers who excavated ships all over the world as far back as the 16th century. After an initial burst of Afro-joy, Tara soon realizes she’s viewed largely as American rather than Black on the continent. Her understanding of self, Blackness, and Africa are turned upside down. But later, while dancing to South African house music under the stars, she finds a connection once again. Want more? Check out our Into the Depths hub to learn more about Tara’s journey following Black scuba divers, find previous Nat Geo coverage on the search for slave shipwrecks, and read the March cover story. And download a tool kit for hosting an Into the Depths listening party to spark conversation and journey deeper into the material. Also explore: If you’re interested in the history of Black aquatic culture, historian Kevin Dawson lays out the connections between African people and the water in his book Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Cultures in the African Diaspora. Read the powerful account of Kossola, also known by the name Cudjo Lewis, in author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston’s book, Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo.’ Find out more about the many “doors of no return” that dot Africa’s west coast, including the sites at Ouidah and Elmina Castle, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
17-02-2022
37 mins
Episode 5: Healing
National Geographic Explorer Tara Roberts begins to understand the healing power of diving for shipwrecks from the slave trade when she learns of a ceremony that honored the 212 Africans lost aboard the Portuguese ship São José Paquete d’Africa. Diver Kamau Sadiki, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch III, and South African luminary Albie Sachs take turns describing the ritual, held in both Mozambique and South Africa, which brought tears, reflection, and resolution. Tara invites fellow Explorer Alyea Pierce to help visualize the centuries-long disintegration of the São José, which sank off the coast of Cape Town in 1794. Want more? Check out our Into the Depths hub to learn more about Tara’s journey following Black scuba divers, find previous Nat Geo coverage on the search for slave shipwrecks, and read the March cover story. And download a tool kit for hosting an Into the Depths listening party to spark conversation and journey deeper into the material. Also explore: Find out more about the Slave Wrecks Project, the consortium of organizations working to uncover and document slave shipwrecks globally, hosted by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Iziko Museums of South Africa provides a closer look at the wreck of the São José through its exhibition, Unshackled History: the Wreck of the Slave Ship, São José, 1794, which includes online resources. Watch footage from a dive exploring the wreck of the São José off the coast of Cape Town’s Clifton Beach, and hear accounts from historians and the divers documenting the findings.
24-02-2022
34 mins
Episode 6: Rooting
National Geographic Explorer Tara Roberts is inspired by the stories of the Clotilda, a ship that illegally arrived in Mobile, Alabama, in 1860, and of Africatown, created by those on the vessel—a community that still exists today. The archaeologists and divers leading the search for the Clotilda lay out the steps it took to find it. As Tara talks to the living descendants of those aboard the ship, she admires their enormous pride in knowing their ancestry, and wonders if she can trace her own ancestors back to a ship. She hires a genealogist and visits her family’s small hometown in North Carolina. The surprising results bring a sense of belonging to a place that she never could have imagined. Want more? Check out our Into the Depths hub to learn more about Tara’s journey following Black scuba divers, find previous Nat Geo coverage on the search for slave shipwrecks, and read the March cover story And download a tool kit for hosting an Into the Depths listening party to spark conversation and journey deeper into the material Also explore: Dive into more of National Geographic’s coverage of the Clotilda with articles looking at scientists’ ongoing archaeological work, the story that broke the discovery of the ship, and the documentary Clotilda: Last American Slave Ship. Meet more of the descendants of the Africans trafficked to the U.S. aboard the Clotilda, and find out what they’re doing to save Mobile’s Africatown community in the face of difficult economic and environmental challenges. Read the story of Kossola, who later received the name Cudjo Lewis, in the book Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” by author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. Learn more about the life of abolitionist Harriet Jacobs, author of “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” who escaped Edenton, N.C., through the Maritime Underground Railroad.
03-03-2022
45 mins