Bringing the sketch block aboard the AQUARIUS

Illustrator Peter Eickmeyer and writer Gaby von Borstel accompanied the team of the MS AQUARIUS for three weeks during their rescue operations. The outcome is a graphic novel to be published in early fall.

Here they tell us about their mission aboard.

SOS MEDITERRANEE Bremer Landesvertretung Berlin
Gaby von Borstel and Peter Eickmeyer at a charity event for SOS MEDITERRANEE. Photo credits: Laurin Schmid.


Mr. Eickmeyer, Ms. von Borstel, you had been aboard for three weeks now. What have you experienced?

Gaby von Borstel: First of all we’ve experienced the everyday life, meaning the waiting, the searching and hopefully the finding and subsequently the rescue.

P.E.: Every single one of these actions involves a large number of necessary precautions and – of course – also emotions. Therefore, it was especially impressive how well organized everything was before, during and after the rescue.

G.v.B.: During our time aboard, the AQUARIUS crew performed three rescue operations and, in addition, several transfers from other ships. So in total more than 1.200 people were taken on board where they were receiving medical care.

© Peter Eickmeyer

Is there an incident that left a particular impression on you?

P.E.: Generally these rescue operations are very distressing. Are we going to be on the right spot at the right time? How many people are aboard? Might there be a panic?

However, one of the operations was particularly dramatic for me, since it happened at night and thus under even more complicated conditions. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Rome (MRCC Rome) had already informed us throughout the day about the sighting of several inflatable dinghies. The occupants of one dinghy were saved, but another boat was untraceable.

Eventually, having found this boat and thus bringing the people aboard – despite the difficulties – was not something to be taken for granted.

© Peter Eickmeyer
© Peter Eickmeyer

How can we imagine your work aboard?

P.E: As a result of the experiences during that cruise, there will be a graphic novel. We want to create a comic-report that equally portrays the work of SOS MEDITERRANEE, the rescuers and the rescued. Also the refugees, who are usually depersonalized in the media and thus barely get a chance to speak, shall be heard. Therefore, it was very important to capture the incidents both graphically and in written form. For this purpose, among others, we conducted interviews with rescued individuals and members of the team.

G.v.B.: These and other experiences aboard are the basis for the texts that, combined with Peter’s pictures, will give a view of what’s happening. A view of why and under what inhuman circumstances people need to flee their countries.

At the same time, during our stay at the Aquarius, I created several logbook entries (#20/#21/#23), which represent the situation aboard.

P.E.: Of course we also pitched in during the rescue operations.

© Peter Eickmeyer

You have been back ashore for several days now. What is happening next?

G.v.B.: We are going to see through and structure our material. Then, the entire cruise – from the first departure up to the return in Italy – will be told based on pictures and accompanying texts. Splitter Verlag will publish our graphic novel “Love thy neighbor” in April 2017.  A part of the proceeds goes to SOS MEDITERRANEE.

P.E.: Besides, four exhibitions are being planned. Again, a part of the proceeds of the sold works will go to SOS MEDITERRANEE.


We are very curious about that. At this point we would like to thank you again for your support. However, we have one question left: What exactly prompted you to report about the work of SOS MEDITERRANEE and the rescue operations of the MS AQUARIUS?

P.E.: We got to know the work of SOS MEDITERRANEE in November 2015 at a lecture of Klaus Vogel, the founder of SOS MEDITERRANEE Germany.

Using impressively simple sentences, Klaus Vogel presented his motives to establish SOS MEDITERRANEE:

What am I? A captain.
What do I see? People who drown.
What am I going to do? I’ll get a ship and rescue them.
This consistent commitment left a big impression on us.

G.v.B.: After we informed ourselves about migration and the Mediterranean Sea, we thought about what we could do from our side. We hope that a graphic novel may challenge this topic also from another perspective and appeal to the cultural humanitarian self-understanding of the people in Europe.