Four Nigerian stowaways survived two weeks in the tiny space above the rudder of a cargo ship as it travelled 3,500 miles of ocean from their home country to Brazil.
The relief of the migrants after their death-defying voyage soon turned to surprise because they thought the vessel was only travelling as far as Europe.
The men had run out of food and drink on their 10th day but survived by drinking sea water that was crashing just metres below them.
Roman Ebimeme Friday, one of the migrants, said they could see “big fish like whales and sharks” from the boat.
The 35-year-old, from Bayelsa state in Nigeria, added that the cramped conditions and the noise of the engine meant sleep was rare as well as risky during the journey.
To prevent themselves from falling into the water, Mr Friday said the men rigged up a net around the rudder and tied
themselves to it with a rope.
‘We taught ourselves not to make a noise’
Mr Friday said his journey to Brazil began on 27 June when a fisherman friend rowed him up to the stern of the
Liberian-flagged Ken Wave, docked in Lagos, and left him by the rudder.
To his surprise, he found three men already there, waiting for the ship to depart.
Mr Friday had never met his new shipmates and feared they could toss him into the sea at any moment.
Once the ship was moving, Mr Friday said the four men made every effort not to be discovered by the ship’s crew, who they also worried might push them in the ocean.
“Maybe if they catch you they will throw you in the water,” he said.
“So we taught ourselves never to make a noise.”
“It was a terrible experience for me,” said 38-year-old Thankgod Opemipo Matthew Yeye, one of the four Nigerians, in an interview at a Sao Paulo church shelter.
“On board it is not easy. I was shaking, so scared. But I’m here.”
Mr Yeve and Mr Friday have now applied for asylum in Brazil.
The two other men have been returned to Nigeria upon their request.
The men arrived in Brazil after being rescued by police in the southeastern port of Vitoria.
Mr Friday said: “I pray the government of Brazil will have pity on me.”
Their remarkable journey across some 5,600 kilometers (3,500 miles) of ocean underlines the risks some
migrants are prepared to take for a shot at a better life.
Mr Yeve and Mr Friday said economic hardship, political instability and crime had left them with little option but to abandon their native Nigeria.
Mr Yeye, a pentecostal minister from Lagos state, said his peanut and palm oil farm was destroyed by floods this year, leaving him and his family homeless.
He hopes they can now join him in Brazil.
“I was very happy when we got rescued,” he said.
Father Paolo Parise, a priest at the Sao Paulo shelter, said he had come across other cases of stowaways but never after a journey so dangerous.
Their journey paid testament to lengths people will go to in search of a new start, he said: “People do unimaginable and deeply dangerous things.”