Firing Point - Atlas Obscura

Firing Point

Kent, Sierra Leone

On an idyllic island off the coast of Sierra Leone, remnants of the defense of the slave trade and its later abolition. 


The Banana Islands sit just a few miles off the coast of Sierra Leone, southwest of the fishing village of Kent. They first appear in European records in the voyages of early Portuguese explorers. With its strategic and isolated position, for much of the 18th century, the islands became a hub in the trade of enslaved people, where captives from the Sierra Leonean coast were gathered to be sold to ships that would stop at the islands.

The Firing Point is part of a former fortification, said to have been built in the first half of the 18th century to protect the islands. Three cannons remain at the site, positioned to overlook the nearby harbor, though trees block the view today. In addition to being the site of a slave exchange, the islands were a base of a British Royal Navy squadron sent to protect merchant ships (including slave trading ships) from piracy.

One of the cannons at Firing Point is dated 1813, indicating that the fortification eventually switched from defending slavery to combatting it. In 1787, the city of Freetown was founded by the Sierra Leone Company as a place to settle formerly enslaved persons. In 1799, the company sought ownership of the Banana Islands as a place to settle Maroons who had been deported by the governor of Jamaica after a rebellion.

The British Parliament abolished the slave trade in 1807 and subsequently made Sierra Leone a crown colony in 1808. To enforce the abolition, the British Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron patrolled the coast of Sierra Leone, bringing captured slave vessels to Freetown. Having been returned to Africa, if not their homes, the enslaved persons settled in towns outside of Freetown, including on the Banana Islands. 

In addition to the Firing Point, nearby are more remnants of the fortifications and several other cannons. Additionally, there are visible remains from buildings and a former well.

Know Before You Go

Banana Islands is reachable via an approximately 45-minute boat ride from Kent. There are several resorts on the island and visitors can take day trips or go overnight. Firing Point is most easily seen on a tour arranged by one of the resorts.

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