About 100 feet down, on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, divers had already pulled four bodies out of the sunken tugboat.
Then a hand appeared on a TV screen monitoring the recovery.
Everyone assumed it was another corpse, and the diver moved toward it.
"But when he went to grab the hand, the hand grabbed him!" Tony Walker, project manager for the Dutch company DCN Diving, said of the rescue in May.
Harrison Odjegba Okene, the tug's Nigerian cook, had survived for three days by breathing an ever-dwindling supply of oxygen in an air pocket. A video of Okene's dramatic rescue was posted on the Internet more than six months after the rescue and has gone viral this week.
As the temperature dropped to freezing, Okene, dressed only in boxer shorts, recited a psalm his wife had sent him earlier by text message, sometimes called the Prayer for Deliverance. "Oh, God, by your name, save me. ... The Lord sustains my life."
To this day, Okene believes his rescue after 72 hours underwater was the result of divine deliverance. The 11 other seamen aboard the tug Jascon 4 died.
On the video, there was an exclamation of fear and shock from Okene's rescuers, and then joy as the realization set in that this hand belonged to a survivor. "What's that? He's alive! He's alive!" a voice can be heard exclaiming.
"It was frightening for everybody," Walker said of that moment, speaking in a telephone interview yesterday.