Mysteries and Ghost Ships at Sea

Updated on January 13, 2018
Rupert Taylor profile image

I've spent half a century writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.

Source

Mary Celeste

“Worse things happen at sea” goes the usually futile attempt to cheer someone up after a misfortune, but sometimes worse things do actually happen at sea.

The Mary Celeste (sometimes incorrectly called the Marie Celeste) is probably the most famous ghost ship.

On the afternoon of December 5, 1872, she was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean between the Azores and the coast of Portugal. No one was aboard and it seemed the crew had abandoned a perfectly seaworthy vessel in a hurry.

All sorts of theories have been put forward from mutiny to alien abduction. But the puzzle of the ghostly Mary Celeste has never been conclusively solved. There are many other mysterious ghost ship stories—read on.

Source

SS Ourang Medan

The crew was dead, the vessel adrift; what happened?

In June 1947, distress calls were picked up by a vessel in the Strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia. In Morse code the sender said “All officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” Then, there was some garbled code followed by “I die.”

After that, silence.

Source

When rescuers arrived and boarded the SS Ourang Medan they found a grisly scene. Corpses of the Dutch crew littered the deck. Each man’s eyes stared as though in terror and their arms reached out as if fending off an unseen attacker. Below decks were more bodies with faces contorted by horror and agony. Even the ship’s dog had died with a snarling muzzle.

The vessel appeared to be in a seaworthy condition and, apart from the fear-stricken grimaces of the victims, there seemed to be no evidence of violence or foul play.

The captain of the rescue ship, Silver Star, decided to tow the Ourang Medan to a harbour. They were scarcely under way before the crew of the Silver Star noticed smoke coming from the crippled vessel. They just managed to cut the tow line before the Ourang Medan exploded and sank.

Now, here’s the problem—the SS Ourang Medan does not appear in any ships’ registries; it may never have existed.

A plausible theory is that the vessel was carrying contraband chemicals, explosives, or nerve agents left over from World War II Japanese experiments. If that’s true, the smugglers obviously did not want to be discovered. Perhaps, they were using an unregistered ghost ship and chemicals leaked from their cargo to kill them all. We’ll never know.

Carroll A. Deering

In late January 1921, the Carroll A. Deering (above) was sailing up the Eastern seaboard of the United States. She was seen by several other vessels and lightships. The crew was reported to be milling about on the deck and the vessel was steering an odd course.

In the early morning of January 31st a Coast Guard officer spotted the five-masted schooner. Its sails were set and it had run aground on the shoals off Cape Hatteras. There was a heavy sea, the deck was awash, and the lifeboats were missing.

Because of bad weather, it was four days before anybody could get on board the wrecked ship. When they did they discovered a mystery. Navigational equipment, personal belongings, and the schooner’s anchors were missing; so was the crew.

By March 1921, the Carroll A. Deering was breaking up on the shoals and was towed away and sunk. An FBI investigation was inconclusive and neither the ship’s log nor its crew ever turned up.

Speculation runs the gamut with suggestions of the involvement of a mutinous crew, pirates, and rum-running gangsters. Of course, there is a body of opinion that the whole conundrum can be put down to paranormal activity.

Source

MV Joyita

The unsinkable MV Joyita was a merchant ship found adrift and abandoned in the South Pacific in 1955. Built in 1933 as a luxury yacht, the Joyita (it means “little jewel” in Spanish) was not a big boat of just 47 tons. Her cedar hull was lined with cork to make her virtually unsinkable.

At 5 a.m. on October 3, 1955 the Joyita left Samoa’s Apia harbour. She was bound for the Tokelau Islands, about 270 miles to the north; a voyage that should take a little less than two days. She had 16 crew and nine passengers aboard. She also had a cargo of medical supplies, empty oil drums, timber, and food.

After being reported overdue on October 6th a huge search and rescue operation started but there was no sign of the Joyita until she was found 600 miles to the west of her scheduled course on November 10th.

She was listing heavily to port and a boarding party discovered a lot of peculiar things. Nobody was aboard and four tons of cargo was missing. Life rafts were gone and the starboard engine was covered with mattresses. There was no logbook or navigational equipment on board and there were four pieces of blood-stained bandage on the deck.

Surely, there were enough clues for a nautical Sherlock Holmes type to unravel the riddle. But no. The official investigation determined that what happened to those on board was “inexplicable on the evidence submitted at the inquiry.”

The boat was found to be in a poor state of repair and that she had sprung a leak. But, why would the crew and passengers abandon a vessel that was unsinkable?

Inevitably alien abductions have been posited and several newspapers blamed the disappearances on still-active Japanese forces who hadn’t heard the war had ended. Other theories range from insurance fraud to that old standby, mutiny.

MV Lyubov Orlova

The MV Lyubov Orlova was a 4,000-ton Soviet-built vessel that took wealthy Russian tourists on Arctic cruises (shown below in happier days). In 2010, authorities in St. John’s, Newfoundland seized her over unpaid harbour fees. Two years later, she was auctioned off and towed out of St. John’s harbour on her final journey to a breaker’s yard.

Source

After only one day at sea, the towline snapped. Re-attached to another tug she was taken out into international waters where Canadian officials ordered her released in February 2013 to drift wherever the currents took her.

A month later, she was reported to be 700 miles west of the Irish Coast, the location given by an emergency beacon that normally only activates when in contact with water.

This leads to speculation that she is now sitting on the ocean floor, but not if the notorious British tabloids have their wishes granted. They said the beacon may have come from lifeboats washed overboard by a heavy sea and the ghost ship still wallowed in the waves.

The headline in The Daily Mail’s January 23, 2014 edition tells it all: “Could this Russian Ghost Ship Infested with CANNIBAL RATS Beach in Britain?” Yikes. For those who like their news lurid this was a juicy item.

The idea was that rats aboard the ship had run out of food and had started eating each other, turning them into ferocious cannibals. If Lyubov Orlova beached herself on British or Irish shores, hundreds, if not thousands, of ravenous rodents would head for land, creating havoc.

Editors were salivating at the thought of this ghost ship arriving with its hungry crew, but, by now, it's pretty close to certain they have become the proverbial drowned rats.

Bonus Factoids

The mythological Flying Dutchman was a sailing ship that was doomed to cross the oceans forever and never reach a port. The story dates from 17th century folklore. Despite its fictional status, the vessel has been reportedly seen many times, glowing with a ghostly light. Seeing the ghost ship is believed to foretell disaster.

In July 1969, the Teignmouth Electron, a 40-ft catamaran, was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. Its owner, Donald Crowhurst, was a competitor in the Golden Globe round-the-world, single-handed, non-stop race. Crowhurst had vanished along with his logbook.

Sources

  • “The Mary Celeste – Fact not Fiction.” Maryceleste.net, undated.
  • “Death Ship: The Ourang Medan Mystery.” Rob Morphy, Mysterious Universe, November 29, 2011.
  • “The Ghost Ship of the Outer Banks.” National Parks Service, undated.
  • “Will we Know, if ever.” Sophie Foster, Fiji Times, June 22, 2009.
  • “Amid Hunt for Malaysian Plane, Ocean Swims with Missing Vessels.” Mark Synnott, National Geographic, March 19, 2014.
  • “Could this Russian Ghost Ship Infested with CANNIBAL RATS Beach in Britain?” Simon Tomlinson and Chris Brooke, The Daily Mail, January 23, 2014.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        6 months ago

        Thank for the explanation and your frankness.

      • Rupert Taylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Rupert Taylor 

        6 months ago from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

        I think the attitude of the Canadian government was that the Lyubov Orlova was not its problem so they cut her adrift to become someone else's problem. Irresponsible. Like those who toss garbage out of their car windows on the highway but on a grand scale.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        6 months ago

        Thank you. This is a very good article about some ghost ships. The sea does hide many secrets. Why was the MV Lyubov Orlova set adrift? This seems to be a hazard to navigation?

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, exemplore.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://exemplore.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)