Track 1: Effects of Climate Change in Warm Weather Coastal Regions
Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa has the third deepest natural harbor in the world and the deepest in Africa. Bunce Island is a small island, measuring approximately 1600 feet long by 350 feet wide at its widest and is strategically located at the limits of ocean-going vessels in the Sierra Leone River estuary.
This strategic location was central to the decision by the British to locate their major slave trading fort on this island. It was operated by the British from 1670 to 1807, when slavery was abolished in Britain. The fort was very central to the British slave trading operations that it was destroyed and rebuilt 6 times. The importance of this fort was not only limited to the British but also to the southern states of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida as enslaved Africans who had a knowledge for growing rice were transported specifically from the Sierra Leone region. The slave castle was abandoned in the 1830’s and the island was overtaken by vegetation. In the 1950’s it was re-discovered and became Sierra Leone’s first recognized historic monument. It is on the UNESCO tentative list of World Heritage sites and has twice been listed on the World Monuments Fund watch list.
Between 2010 and2012, an initial preservation and stabilization project on the existing castle was carried out but was not completed due to lack of funds. Since then two significant collapses occurred to elements of the fortification and even though there is now currently another preservation and stabilization effort underway with the World Monuments Fund, the possibility of further collapses/damage is still present.
Sierra Leone has the heaviest rainfall in Africa, with over 120” annually falling during the 6 month rainy season from April to September. It has also been identified as one of the countries on the west coast of Africa that will be significantly impacted by climate change and rising sea levels.
This presentation will highlight the threats to the preservation of this important slave fortification due to the impact of erosion of the island, possible rising sea levels and possible solutions to mitigate this.