The ghosts often seemed to come after six in the evening. From where he sat in the cramped boat, Ababacar Mbaye watched the minds of the men with whom he had left the coast of Senegal start to run mad, the effect of seeing nothing but miles of sea for days and hearing only the waves.
One man said he saw his home in the sea. Another was sure ghosts were on the boat. Both had to be tied down to keep them from jumping overboard. A fisherman, Mr. Mbaye is no stranger to the sea, but even he felt the strain after days without food. It was the thought of a better life in Europe that kept the father of five’s hopes up.
But after a week at sea, just as the boat was closing in on Spain’s Canary Islands, violent winds forced the men to dock in a Mauritanian village, their mission a failed one. Of the 88 who had boarded, 17 died from hunger, including two young boys who lived close to Mr. Mbaye’s home.