When I was young the notion of being a stowaway seemed a romantic one, with travel and excitement being the dream.  The word still conjurs up images of freckle-faced orphans sneaking up the gangways, clambering into life boats aboard glamourous ocean liners, taking rations from left-over room service trays and bathing in the swimming pools under cover of moonlight.

However, sadly this week I first heard about the practice of wheel-hub stowaways.  It seems these poor, desperate people literally stuff themselves into the hub of the aeroplane wheels in the hope they will be whisked away to a better world. Those who don’t drop out of the sky upon approach to an airport – unconscious because of lack of oxygen – simply freeze to death in the high altitudes with no protection.

This is not a new phenomenon, according to the article just re-posted here –, between the years of 1947 and 2012 there have been 96 recorded aeroplane undercarriage stowaways with a miraculous 23 surviving their journey.

The Macquarie dictionary reveals a stowaway to be: one who conceals himself aboard a ship or other conveyance, as to get a free trip.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with the definition, it seems insufficient or even trite when used to describe the travails and risks endured by the wheel-hub refugees.

I can only begin to imagine the process involved in weighing up the risks of taking such a method of escaping to freedom, a false freedom for most, and don’t want to try to imagine the horror and pain of the families they leave behind and who often never learn of their plight.

On a lighter note, have you ever stowed away (on any type of vehicle); was it cause for pleasure or pain, and what did you endure?

Were you found out?


7 thoughts on “Stowaways

  1. Bit different from the Shirley Temple image we had of the brave little stowaway. Poor souls won’t be rescued and adopted by a nice rich couple. Nice piece!

  2. Heavens, I’d never even heard of wheel-hub stowaways before! What a ghastly concept. It’s so sad that people are pushed to even consider such extreme actions to escape their homelands or whatever it is they’re trying to escape….let-alone plucking up the courage to actually do it!

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