The story of the 11 dead and some 40 other would-be immigrants from Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Gambia starts on Christmas Day 2005 at Praia, a port in the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde. There, for €1,300 (£890) each, people were promised a trip to the Canary Islands by a mysterious Spaniard.
Their boat was to be a motorised yacht, bearing no name and no flag. They paid to make the voyage, assuming that the Spaniard - a mechanic based in the Canaries - would be skippering the boat. At the last moment, however, a Senegalese man took over and the Spaniard disappeared. Several then refused to make the journey. One, according to the El Pais newspaper, jumped from the yacht as it set sail. It is by no means clear what happened next.
Somewhere near the Mauritanian port of Nouadhibou the yacht ran into trouble. Another boat was sent to its aid, apparently after the skipper had contacted the Spaniard. The yacht was towed but, at some stage, the line was severed. El Pais reported that it had been hacked with a machete. With no fuel left and food and water running out, the migrants' fate was left in the hands of the sea, the weather, and luck. The latter soon ran out.
The yacht drifted into the stormy Atlantic and, it is assumed, people were tossed or washed overboard as they died.
The 11 last survivors, huddled together against the elements, were reported to have died by the end of January. At that stage their yacht became a ghost ship, battered by storms or winds until it appeared, 2,800 miles away, on the other side of the Atlantic. A Barbados fishing boat was the first to sight it on April 29, 135 days after it had set sail.
The white ghost ship rolled in the Atlantic swell as the rescue boats approached it 70 nautical miles off Ragged Point, one of the most easterly places on the Caribbean island of Barbados. The boat's phantom crew was made up of the desiccated corpses of 11 young men, huddled in two separate piles in the small cabin. Dressed in shorts and colourful jerseys, they had been partially petrified by the salt water, sun and sea breezes of the Atlantic Ocean
An air ticket from Senegal Airlines and a tragic note written by one of the men as he was preparing to die have, however, helped investigators from several countries set about unraveling the mystery.
'Please excuse me'
"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," the note said, according to a Barbados paper, the Daily Nation. Relatives of those aboard have been contacting the Barbadian authorities from as far afield as Senegal, Spain and Portugal. They have added pieces to the puzzle - based on telephone calls with relatives before they boarded, and with people who stayed in contact with the boat during the first stage of the voyage.
My Dear Brothers,
With a full heart, we pause and remember the 11 lifeless Africans who were found on a boat off the coast of Barbados in April 2006, as we unveil a headstone in their honor. The Ndaje Senegal Association from Guadeloupe request your presence. On Thursday February 11, 2016 from 10:00 am to 10:30 am At the Westbury Cemetery, Bridgetown, St Michael. We would be grateful if you could attend.
For any additional information please contact: 280 3889