A phantom ship is a vessel with no living crew on board. Some may associate such a boat with The Flying Dutchman, a legendary ghost ship from a myth that likely originated from a 17th-century nautical folklore, and which was made more popular in The Pirates of the Caribbean movie series.
However, the tales of the ghost ships you are about to read are real. They are not a figment of one’s imagination, although their stories are as bewildering and as spine-chilling as a horror film.
These boats had been discovered aimlessly drifting at sea with all the crew and the passengers missing. People have speculations, but until their bodies are recovered, no one will know for sure what happened to them.
#9. The High Aim 6 or Haian Liuhao 海安六號
In 2003, this Indonesian-registered, Taiwan-owned fishing boat was seen drifting off the western Australian coast. Apart from the tons of rotting fish, the trawler was abandoned. As to the crew’s fate, authorities couldn’t find a clue despite an extensive search. They only know that there were supposed to be at least seven crewmembers aboard based on the toothbrushes they found in the living quarters.
The ship was last seen about 3,500 nautical miles or 6,500 kilometers in the Marshall Islands, between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii before it was reported missing. Strangely, though, weeks after the The High Aim was discovered, someone was still making calls from Indonesia using the boat engineer’s mobile phone. Taiwanese officials suspected mutiny after checking the phone records. The Indonesian police were able to track down and arrest one suspect who admitted that the crew returned to their homeland after murdering the captain and the boat engineer on December 8, 2002. He never elucidated their motive.
#8. The Lyubov Orlova
This vessel was aimlessly wandering in the Atlantic Ocean for nearly a year and was heading towards British shores. Fortunately, the abandoned ship never made it to the coastline for it was infested with ghastly, cannibal rodents.
The owners jumped ship in a harbor in St. John’s, Newfoundland when they fell into debt and could no longer afford to pay the crew. It remained there for almost two years until the Dominican Republic bought it in January 2013 with the intention of scraping its metal. It was worth approximately $1 million in scrap metal, which was why salvage hunters had their eyes on the boat.
The dilapidated Lyubov Orlova broke loose after it left the dock.
Although it was allegedly reclaimed, people say the line snapped again and was left drifting in international waters.
Chris Reynolds, the Irish Coast Guard’s director, said, “Our professional belief is that it has sunk.
“We’ve discussed it with the UK, Norway, and Iceland, and we’re all pretty happy that it has probably sunk.”
#7. The Teignmouth Electron
Before there was the Vendee Globe where highly trained sailors vie in a one-man, non-stop sailing race across the globe from France via the Great Capes, there was the Golden Globe race.
Back in the day, a feat like this could only be dreamed off, so when the Sunday Times of London announced that they were sponsoring The Golden Globe, sailors—great and armchair alike—and also dreamers and adventurers were stoked to join the race.
Unfortunately, Donald Crowhurst, sailing the Teignmouth Electron, was one of the latter.
Crowhurst found people who would finance him under the condition that if he failed to reach certain targets or leave the race too soon, he would have to pay them back. For the adventurer, that would mean selling everything he owned.
He had high hopes; however, as he sailed further from shore, he realized that neither he nor his boat was strong enough to last the journey.
Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, he decided to stay in the Atlantic. He faked his positions during the entire course of the race and thought of rejoining the fleet when they return home. That way, he’ll still get the chance to place 3rd or 4th in the competition. He won’t win the prize money, but at least, his family wouldn’t have to be financially ruined.
However, haunted by his conscience and being alone at sea for months took a toll on his mental state. Moreover, learning that only two boats remain and the 2nd place ship sunk as it headed north, he knew he would be exposed. Soon, the vessel’s radio went silent.
On July 10, 1969, a passing freighter found the Teignmouth Electron abandoned. Donald Crowhurst chose to commit suicide rather than return home.
The ship’s wreck now lies on the beach of Cayman Brac.
#6. The Ocean Wave
The Ocean Wave was partially submerged when it was discovered 150 miles West-Southwest off the coast of Ireland. It was supposedly manned by a 33-year-old Dutch artist named Bastiaan Johan Christiaan Ader or Bas Jan Ader.
Ader bid farewell to his wife and set sail from Cape Cod on a solo journey across the Atlantic on July 9, 1975. The voyage was reportedly a performance in three parts entitled In Search of the Miraculous. A student choir sang sea shanties around a piano in the gallery of Ader’s Los Angeles dealer the night before he set sail. The trip was to be the central element in the performance. For the last part, he planned a second sing-along when he reached Falmouth 8-10 weeks later.
However, within three weeks, all radio contact with The Ocean Wave was lost. The boat was spotted 60 miles out to sea and then again near the Azores. After which, Ader was never seen again. Some speculated that he jumped overboard after a freak wave swept the boat. Others think that he intended to commit suicide from the start.
#5. Carroll A. Deering
C.P. Brady of the Cape Hatteras Coast Guard Station saw the five-masted schooner aground and abandoned on the shoals in North Carolina the morning of January 31, 1921. The sails were up and the lifeboats were missing. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that all the crew’s personal effects, key navigational equipment, certain documents, and the ship’s anchor were gone as well. The food was laid out and it seemed that a meal was about to be prepared, but there were no signs of all of its eleven crewmen. All that’s left was the dilapidated hull of the boat showing the peculiar passage it had taken.
Two days before the boat was discovered, the Deering passed the Cape Lookout Lightship as it was returning to Hampton Roads, Virginia from Barbados. The lightship keeper said the crew was milling about and a crewman who didn’t look like an officer, reported that the boat had lost its anchors. The ship passed SS Lake Elon southwest of the Diamond Shoals Lightship at around 5:45 in the afternoon the next day; however, it seemed to be steering a very strange course. The Deering was found aground the following day.
In March 1921, the wrecked ship was towed away and blown up. A month later, a resident of Buxton, North Carolina named Christopher Columbus Gray claimed he found a note inside a bottle. According to Gray, the note said that pirates had seized the Deering. Handwriting experts initially inferred that the note was written by engineer Herbert Bates, one of the crew members. Federal government experts later proved it to be a hoax. According to their investigation, Gray wrote the letter himself.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) considered several theories from mutiny to hurricanes to rum runners—anything that could possibly explain the crew’s disappearance, but the investigation was futile. Up to this day, no one knows what truly happened to the Deering’s crew.
#4. MV Joyita
MV Joyita was on a 300 nautical mile voyage from Apia in Samoa to the Tokelau islands. Twenty-five people were supposed to be on board. But when it was found on November 10, 1955, none of crew and passengers were ever found. Captain Dusty Miller’s firearms, the ship’ logbook, sextant, mechanical chronometer and other navigational equipment were gone as well.
The ship was already in a very poor state. The pipes were rusty and even though the radio was working, the signal could not reach beyond two miles probably because of some faulty wiring. Nevertheless, due to the extreme buoyancy of the vessel, it did not sink. MV Joyita was considered unsinkable, just like the Titanic
What happened to all its crew and passengers then?
According to Auckland academic David Wright, there is evidence that a leak from a corroded pipe in the engine cooling system caused the boat to take in water. Once the crew discovered this, they probably decided to abandon ship in life rafts. Someone might have sent out a mayday signal on the boat’s radio; however, it wasn’t working. Wright believes the people waited on the rafts, hoping that the Royal New Zealand Air Force Sunderland flying boat would rescue them, but no one arrived. One by one, the passengers and the crew either drowned or were killed by sharks.
#3. Mary Celeste
On November 7, 1872, Mary Celeste set sail from New York Harbor to Genoa, Italy. Aside from captain Benjamin S. Briggs, his wife, Sarah, their 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, and eight crewmembers, on board were 1,700 barrels of crude alcohol and six months’ worth of food and water.
On December 5, less than a month after, Dei Gratia, a British-owned ship, spotted the boat at full sail and drifting about 400 miles east of the Azores. All the people on board were gone. Several feet of water was noted in the hold and one of the lifeboats was missing. But apart from that, the ship and its cargo were intact.
For 135 years, the fate of the Mary Celeste remains an enigma. Theories ranging from mutiny, pirate attack, to a probable explosion caused by the barrels of alcohol, to other ludicrous theories involving a giant octopus or a sea monster have emerged.
In 2007, a documentary entitled The True Story Of Mary Celeste suggested a scenario in which a faulty chronometer, rough seas, and a clogged onboard pump prompted Briggs to order his crew to abandon ship shortly after sighting land on November 25, 1872. However, the documentary failed to offer any conclusion.
#2. The Kaz II
In April 2007, Kaz II was found drifting off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The engine was idling and the ship’s sail was ripped apart. Inside the yacht, a laptop and a half-empty cup of coffee were on a table, a newspaper was lying open with some of its pages scattered on the floor along with some knives. There was a pile of clothes on a bench too, but the three middle-aged crew members who were supposed to be on board were missing.
Des Batten, 56, who had just recently purchased the boat for £60,000, set sail with brothers Peter, 69, and John Tunstead, 63, on April 15. Three days later, the men, all described as “typical Aussie blokes” vanished without a trace.
Some people believed the men encountered drug smugglers or pirates while others think their disappearance was staged for insurance purposes. In 2008, however, a coroner in Townsville, Queensland named Michael Barnes, announced that the men died in a freak accident.
The coroner believes the men were inexperienced sailors. According to Barnes, a fishing line probably got entangled around the yacht’s propeller and one of the brothers tried to free it; however, he fell overboard. The other brother also fell as he tried to rescue him. Batten, the skipper, tried to drop the sails so he could turn and go back, but the wind’s direction caused the boom to swing and knock him. It was very likely that he went into the water as well.
Barnes said, “Once the three men were in the water there was very little chance they could get back on the boat. It would be beyond their reach in seconds. From that point, the end would have been swift.”
#1. The Twelve Wooden Boats Found along Japan’s Coast
A total of 22 human bodies in varying stages of decomposition—that’s what Japanese authorities found aboard the twelve wooden boats that had been washed up along their coast last year. The first vessel was discovered in October, and then a series of ships turned up again in November. The latest boat was found floating off the north coast of Japan’s main Honshu Island in December, carrying four cadavers. All the bodies were “partially skeletonized”—two were decapitated. CNN reports that one boat contained six skulls.
Coastguard officials tried to figure out where the boats came from and who and what happened to those people on board. However, they believe the wooden ships were from North Korea due to the Korean lettering found on the hull of one of the three boats found on November 20. The writing said, “Korean People’s Army,” the name of North Korea’s military defense forces. That particular vessel contained 10 rotting bodies. According to NHK, officials also found a tattered scrap of cloth on one of the boats. The fabric looked like a piece from a North Korean national flag.
What are these boats exactly? Some believe these were fishing vessels that strayed off course while others think they were carrying defectors from the communist country.
What do you think?
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