There have only been a handful of slave ships that have been located, and only two have been fully explored. Many of those ships allegedly were not carrying slaves at the time they sank. However, there is one ship which is believed to have been carrying over 660 slaves at the time it went down. It has been described as the biggest single tragedy of the Atlantic Slave trade.
The 111-foot ship, named Leusden, was owned by the Dutch West India Company. It started its final voyage at Elmina, in what is now Ghana, on November 19, 1737. The ship had spent six months at the African port, waiting for enough slaves to be taken on board to make the journey economically viable.
Swedish captain Jochem Outjes set sail toward the coast, but the ship was soon pulled toward a strong tide that dragged the Leusden toward land and ran aground. The captain hoped the next high tide would raise the ship, so the slaves were brought up on deck to move around.
However, the wheel, which was resting on the river bed, broke away and water started to fill the ship. The slaves reportedly were then rushed back below into their flooded quarters and the hatches were nailed shut. The crew members were ordered to sit on the hatches to keep the slaves from breaking free. The crew stayed on top the hatches until they abandoned ship into two smaller boats.
The Leusden hit a sandbank and sunk in the mouth of the Maroni River. Only 16 slaves survived the ordeal and were later sold. No one was punished for the deaths of the slaves. The Leusden made 10 slave-trading voyages in its day.