On the night of July 31, 1761, a frigate of the French East India Company named Utile, captained by Jean de La Fargue, and carrying a contraband of African slaves ran aground on a small, flat island located about 500 km north of Réunion and about 450 km east of Madagascar.
The ship was carrying on its hold some 160 slaves consisting of men, women and children, bound for Mauritius where the slaves would have been sold to plantation owners. Although slavery was legal at the time, de Lafargue was not authorized by colonial authorities to trade in slaves. In addition, the ship was also carrying a French crew of 140 men.
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Tromelin Island, formerly “Île des Sables”. Photo: Richard Bouet