Press release #2/2006


60 salves abandoned for 15 years on a desert islet of the Indian Ocean

The GRAN (or Groupe de Recherche en Archéologie Navale, a non-profit organization) is going to make archaeological excavation (underwater and on land) on the island of tromelin (France).
Starting of the operation « L’Utile … 1761 : forgotten slaves ».

After leaving Bayonne on November 17th 1760, l’Utile, ship of the East Indies French Company, sank on July 31st 1761on the “Sandy Island” (today Tromelin island), a square kilometre and desert islet.
She carries Madagascan slaves bought fraudulently to be sold on the Island of France (today Mauritius Island).

The crew sails to Madagascar on a craft leaving 60 slaves on the island with food for 3 months and promising them to come back soon.

They didn’t keep their promise and a long time after, on November 29th 1776, The chevalier of Tromelin, commanding the ship La Dauphine, saved eight surviving slaves: seven women and on eight months baby.

A scientific and human adventure:

That island is 470 km for from Madagascar ( in the east) and 560 km far from La Réunion (in the north), although, that coral islet hasn’t got any water or natural resources, it has owned a weather center since 1954.

The underwater and land archaeological operation directed by the Groupe de Recherche en Archéologie Navale (GRAN) aims at clearing up the circumstance of the wreck of l’Utile and at the extraordinary conditions of surviving of the forgotten slaves on the desert islet of Tromelin.
For a long time, co-operating with UNESCO, the GRAN research is about slave-traders by studying salve-traders ships. Within the frameworck of that research, the GRAN announces the operation « L’Utile … 1761 : forgotten slaves ».
Island of Tromelin  

A large co-operation for an operation above the average :

That operation will take place from October 9th to November 8th, within the jurisdiction of the TAAF (Terres Australes et Antarctiques Française, chargé de l'administration des îles Éparses de l'océan Indien), co-operation with the UNESCO program « The slave route » with the financing of : la fondation d’entreprise Banque Populaire, collectivités territoriales La Réunion (Conseil Régional and Conseil Général) and Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles de La Réunion.
Besides, the GRAN has received some help from the Defence Minister (Commandant supérieur des forces armées dans la zone sud de l’Océan Indien) and from the French Meteorological office (La Réunion), which will help with the logistics, the carriage and the stay of the searching group on the island.
Many institutions and associations have aslo contributed at that project : l’Unité mixte de service (UMS) – Histoire et archéologie maritime (CNRS-Sorbonne-Musée de la Marine), la Société Française d’Histoire Maritime, l’association « Les anneaux de la Mémoire » (Nantes), l’Institut national de recherche archéologique préventive (INRAP), l’éducation nationale et notamment l’académie de La Réunion,  l’association « La confrérie des gens de la mer » (La Réunion), l’Association Réunionnaise Culture et Communication (ARCC), l’Association généalogie et histoire des familles (Pays Basque - Adour Maritime), le Musée de la Compagnie des Indes de Lorient.

As usual, the GRAN, will broadcast a daily paper on relayed by UNESCO, the French Culture Minister and TAAF, which will permit to know day by day the research progression. Moreover, thanks to a fitted software, pupils from La Réunion or from everywhere else, will be able to take part in the operation and converse with the searchers.

A press conference will be held on october 3rd at 15 p.m. at the siege of “Association réunionnaise communication et culture” (ARCC), 160 rue Pelleport 75020, Paris.


Contacts :

Head project - GRAN
Max Guérout
Email :
Phone : 00 (33) 4 67 35 92 01 ou 00 (33) 6 23 16 78 17

Thierry Périllo
Email :
Phone  : 00 (33) 2 62 96 78 09

Marie-Josée Thiel
Email :
Phone : 00 (33) 1 45 68 44 20

Communication - GRAN
Email :
Téléphone : 00 (33) 4 66 04 05 41

In la Réunion
Jean-François Rebeyrotte
Email  :
Phone  : 06 92 65 53 97

Website - GRAN
Sébastien Eon
Mastering and management of the website of the GRAN - -
Email :