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31 J. Mar. L. & Com. 601 (2000)
Human Contraband: Stowaways in Popular Culture

handle is hein.journals/jmlc31 and id is 611 raw text is: journal of Maritime Law and Commerce, Vol. 31, No. 4, October, 2000

Human Contraband: Stowaways in
Popular Culture
W. M. von ZHAREN*
Throughout history, popular culture romanticized stowaways, depicting
them as adventurers, swashbucklers, rogues, bon vivants, and heroes.
Recently, however, as the news media reported incidents of real life
stowaways being pulled from cargo containers emaciated and traumatized,
or even dead, popular culture has been forced to rethink and revise its image
of the stowaway.
This article explores both the traditional and the contemporary depiction
of stowaways in popular culture and suggests that in the future, realistic
portrayals of stowaways will become more common.
A stowaway is commonly understood to be a person who hides himself
on board a ship just before she sails in order to obtain free passage to the
ship's destination, to escape from a country by stealth, or to get to sea
unobserved.' This definition smacks of romanticism and conflicts with the
more negative statutory definition: any alien who obtains transportation
without the consent of the.., person in command of any vessel.., through
*Marine Policy Coordinator, Texas Institute of Oceanography, Texas A & M University (Galveston).
B.A., M.Ed., Ed.D., University of Florida; J.D., University of South Carolina; LL.M., University of
Texas. Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Curly, Dr. Glenn Jacobs, Dr. Peter Nordstrom, Ms. Deborah
Lawson, Ms. Christine Henderson, and Mr. James Perrigo.
'The Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea 837 (P. Kemp ed. 1976). This article does not address
a number of provocative peregrinations of characters almost falling into the category of stowaway,
such as women disguised as men on vessels (e.g., John Carlova's Mistress of the Seas (1964), with the
historical figures of Anne Bonny and Mary Read), or the captivity/pick-ups found in such works as C.S.
Forester's Beat to Quarters (1937), Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous (1897), and Jack London's
The Sea Wolf (1904)).


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