NatGeo launches 'Into the Depths' podcast in search of slave shipwrecks, untold stories

ByJulian Glover WPVI logo
Thursday, January 27, 2022
NatGeo debuts 'Into the Depths' podcast on search for slave shipwrecks
NatGeo's new podcast 'Into the Depths' follows a team of scuba divers in search of undiscovered shipwrecks from the transatlantic slave trade.

SAN FRANCISCO -- If you're in the market for a new podcast, you'll want to check out "Into the Depths" from our partners at National Geographic. The six-part podcast premiering Thursday follows a team of scuba divers in search of undiscovered shipwrecks from the transatlantic slave trade.

The story gives a voice to the nearly 2 million enslaved Africans who died at sea.

For National Geographic Explorer and storyteller Tara Roberts, the story begins at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Of all of the exhibits and artifacts, it was a picture of Black female scuba divers that drew her in.

"They just looked free, joyous, and adventurous," Roberts recalls.

She had never seen a group of Black woman scuba divers before -- that representation manifested inspiration for her.

"It made me think, 'Oh, maybe I could do that too.'" she said.

What she would later learn is that those women were members, and the man with them was the co-founder, of the group Diving With a Purpose.

The nonprofit organization's mission is locating and documenting shipwrecks related to the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

In a matter of months, Roberts would join the organization, learn how to scuba dive, and start documenting their work for the podcast "Into the Depths."

"I felt powerful underwater. Like I have raised my hand and I've said I'm going to take on finding this history, which means giving voice to these people who haven't had voice before," said Roberts.

It's estimated 12.5 million Africans were torn from their families and homeland, kidnapped, and sent on ships across the Middle Passage to be forced into slavery in an unfamiliar land from the 15th to 19th centuries.

Around 1,000 of those ships wrecked at sea crossing the treacherous waters of the Atlantic Ocean and as many as 1.8 million African souls were lost, their stories rarely ever acknowledged.

The six-part podcast takes the listener on an immersive journey of discovery across the globe to find those lost ships.

To date, fewer than 10 shipwrecks from the slave trade have been located.

From Mozambique to Costa Rica, the Florida coast and beyond, Roberts joins a group of mostly Black divers, archeologists, and historians uncovering these hidden, never-before-told stories

"I am seeing actual evidence from that experience over 200 years ago. That is crazy and beautiful -- it's wonderful," Roberts said. "Encountering these shipwrecks was indeed healing. It was an opportunity for closure."

Roberts hopes listeners join her on this journey of a lifetime as she reimagines and reframes the origins story of Africans in the Americas, telling a story that humanizes and brings empathy to those often forgotten.

"So much of our history is hidden. It's obscured. It's not told fully," she said. "I hope people are curious to want to find out more and join in on this important work."

"Into the Depths" is featured on the cover of the March issue of National Geographic magazine.

To learn more about the podcast available now, visit the NatGeo website.

You can find "Into the Depths" wherever you listen to podcasts. Episodes will drop weekly.

On February 7 at 10 p.m. ET/PT | 9 p.m. CT, National Geographic will also premiere a documentary special, "Clotilda: Last America Slave Ship," about the most intact slave shipwreck found to date and the only one for which we know the full story of the voyage, the passengers and their descendants.

"Clotilda: Last American Slave Ship" will be available to stream the next day on Hulu.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of National Geographic Partners and this ABC station.