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Tragic story of Barbados ‘ghost ship’ found with bodies of 11 unknown passengers & note which revealed their grisly fate

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A HAUNTING sight dotted the Atlantic Ocean, drifting 130km off the coast of Ragged Point, Barbados.

Barbadian coastguards eventually braved boarding the unmarked, unmanned 6m white yacht – only to make a tragic discovery.

An eerie, unmarked white vessel was found off the coast of Barbados

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An eerie, unmarked white vessel was found off the coast of BarbadosCredit: AP
Barbadian coastguards found 11 young men had died on board the ship

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Barbadian coastguards found 11 young men had died on board the shipCredit: AP

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Onboard the sea-battered ship was little more than the desiccated remains of 11 young men, their shorts and jerseys almost entirely faded from the elements.

Their bodies though, had been partially preserved by salt water, the sun and the often-intense Atlantic sea breezes.

The weathered yacht, thought to be of French design, was towed into Willoughy Fort, Bridgetown, where the rescuers moved the bodies onto the quay.

In a part of the world where many myths have stemmed from the powers of the ocean, the mystery of these dead men quickly stirred intrigue on the island.

Amidst the whispers of local legends, some clues emerged.

A Senegal Airlines ticket and a tragic note, written by one of the young men as he prepared to die, offered a starting point in unravelling the mystery.

It read: “I would like to send to my family in Bassada [a town in the interior of Senegal] a sum of money.

“Please excuse me and goodbye. This is the end of my life in this big Moroccan sea.”

Although the eerie vessel was discovered off the coast of the Caribbean, investigators were able to trace its origins back to Cape Verde, situated off the African coast.

It also emerged that the ill-fated young men had been heading for the Canary Islands in Europe.

According to reports, evidence strongly suggests that the men were cut adrift in the Atlantic for a number of weeks, which led to their slow, and agonising, demise.

Barbados police have since revealed that the cause of their deaths was starvation and dehydration.

Relatives of the tragic young men have reached out to Barbadian authorities from as far afield as Senegal, Spain, and Portugal.

All of these contacts have each revealed small parts of communication that the individuals had – either prior to boarding, or during the first stages of their voyage.

It has emerged that the 11 deceased individuals were joined by 40 other immigrant hopefuls from Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Gambia.

Their journey had begun on Christmas Day in Praia, a port within the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde.

There, an unnamed Spaniard promised them a trip to the Canary Islands for a sum of 1,300 euros each.

Reportedly, all 51 passengers paid the Spaniard, believing that he – a mechanic from the Canaries – would be captaining their boat. But, at the very last moment, a Senegalese man took over and the Spanish man vanished.

Some passengers refused to make the journey as a consequence, with one reportedly leaping overboard as the yacht set sail, according to a report in El Pais newspaper.

It remains unclear what exactly happened next.

According to El Pais, however, the yacht ran into trouble near the Mauritanian port of Nouadhibou.

Another vessel was dispatched to aid it, apparently after the Senegalese man had contacted the Spaniard. But after efforts to tow it, the line was severed with a machete.

Stranded without fuel, and limited provisions of food and water, the migrants’ fate became a gamble – left entirely up to the sea.

The yacht drifted into the Atlantic, and it is assumed that the other migrants were either tossed, or washed, overboard as they met their cruel fate.

The last 11 survivors are thought to have died at the end of January.

The latest immigrant route into Europe from Africa has already claimed thousands of lives.

It’s one of the most dangerous routes in the world, yet the number of migrants leaving from Senegal on rickety wooden boats has surged over the past year.

Almost 1,000 migrants died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2023, Walking Borders says.

And in August alone, more than 60 migrants were feared dead after a boat from Senegal capsized near Cape Verde.

Tragic timeline

December 2006 Dozens of immigrants are approached at Praia, Cape Verde and are promised a voyage to the Canary Islands.

Christmas Day The voyage begins, but with a change in captain. One person immediately jumps overboard.

Boxing Day The yacht runs into trouble near the Mauritanian port of Nouadhibou. Another vessel comes to its aid, but to little avail.

27 December The tow line is severed with a machete and the boat is set adrift into the Atlantic.

January It is assumed that dozens of migrants were either tossed, or washed, overboard after the boat was set adrift.

End of January The last 11 survivors are thought to have died at the end of January.

It has since emerged that 51 migrants had been on board the boat at one point

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It has since emerged that 51 migrants had been on board the boat at one pointCredit: AP

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