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A grim offshore discovery

Jan 1, 2003

The bodies of 11 sailors were found aboard a drifting vessel off the southeastern Caribbean island of Barbados this past spring, victims of an apparent immigration smuggling attempt. The vessel had been reportedly adrift for more than four months, since January, and the bodies were in a petrified condition as a result of the salt air, according to local authorities and various local press reports.

The voyage aboard the 20-foot, French-designed sailing vessel originated in Cape Verde, according to the reports, and the victims were Senegalese nationals seeking immigration to Spain by way of Tenerife, one of the Spanish-controlled Canary Islands.

A sum of money and a note were found with one of the victims, "I would like to send to my family in Bassada [Senegal] a sum of money. Please excuse me, and goodbye. This is the end of my life in this big Moroccan sea," the note said, according to the Daily Nation, a Barbados newspaper. The men apparently died of starvation and dehydration, according to local reports. The vessel then drifted some 2,800 miles across the Atlantic.

The men had each apparently paid an estimated $1,200 to a Spaniard for passage. The man disappeared before the vessel departed on Dec. 25, 2005, and the men reportedly continued the voyage unassisted.