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 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19562101, 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?