10 Ghost Ships that Actually Existed

    June 21, 2011 at 6:00 am

    When you hear the word “Ghost Ship“, you usually think of either that crappy Gabriel Byrne movie, or a huge, old, half-transparent pirate ship like The Flying Dutchman. That’s the fantastical version of a Ghost Ship. Real life Ghost Ships are far more creepy. While they’re few and far between, history has played host to a number of sea-going vessels that, for unknown reasons, were completely abandoned by their crew and passengers and left to drift through the oceans. In many cases, the crew of these mysterious ghost ships was never found, adding to the mystery and intrigue that surrounds them. Here are 10 real-life ghost ships that actually existed:

    The Mary Celeste

    Discovered: December 4, 1872

    mary celeste ghost shipWhen it comes to ghost ships that actually existed, The Mary Celeste is a quintessential example. The Mary Celeste was a 282-ton ship that was transporting alcohol from New York City to Italy. Benjamin Briggs, a ridiculously experienced sea captain, was manning the helm. Briggs had spent most of his life at sea, had captained at least 5 other ships, and owned a number of vessels. On December 5th, a month after its departure, another ship spotted the Mary Celeste sailing erratically. The crew boarded the ship to find it completely unoccupied. Most of the ship’s papers and navigation equipment were missing, but it still had a 6-month supply of food in its cargo and all of the passengers’ personal items were left behind. It appears that, if the ship’s occupants abandoned ship, they did so in a hurry. Yet, the Mary Celeste was still a completely functional ship. Additionally, the ship’s cargo (1,700 barrels of alcohol) were untouched, which all but completely ruled out piracy as a likely cause of abandonment. None of the passengers or crew members were ever found.

    The Baychimo

    Discovered: multiple times between 1931 and 1969

    baychimo ghost shipThe Baychimo was a Canadian fur trading ship that made frequent trips up and down the western coast of Canada. In 1931, the Baychimo became trapped in packed ice, and the crew eventually abandoned the vessel, assuming that the ship would not survive the winter, and would certainly never sail again. But as soon as the ice melted, the Baychimo did sail again…by itself. For the next 48 years, the Baychimo was frequently sighted off the coast of Alaska and western Canada. It was boarded numerous times, but each time the salvagers were turned away by bad weather or the fact that the Baychimo had, over the past 40 years, been picked dry. Nonetheless, the ship continued to drift around the Arctic Ocean on its own. Nobody has seen the Baychimo since 1969, but they’ve also never found the wreckage anywhere, so the Baychimo could still be drifting around out there somewhere.

    The Zebrina

    Discovered: 1917

    The Zebrina was an English cargo vessel that was carrying coal to France. The ship departed from Falmouth, in October 1917 and was discovered 2 days later on a beach in northern France. There was no crew on board, and no signs of damage or a struggle of any kind. The crew was simply gone. At the time, it was believed that the ship may have been surprised by a German submarine, and the crew was taken hostage. When a German U-Boat would capture a vessel, it would often take the crew hostage and then sink the vessel. However, investigators speculated that perhaps the U-Boat was interrupted by another allied vessel and forced to depart before sinking the Zebrina, or that the U-Boat may have been destroyed by another allied vessel with the Zebrina crew on board. There’s no direct physical evidence to verify this speculation though, so it’s still considered a mystery.

    The Octavius

    Discovered: October, 1775

    ghost shipThe Octavius was a British merchant vessel that was trading with China in the late 1700’s. According to the story of The Octavius, the ship arrived safely in China, but then the ship’s captain chose to gamble with fate: he decided to attempt a return to England using the Northwest Passage (through the Arctic), which had never been attempted before. Here’s where it gets interesting: the ship wasn’t discovered until 13 years later off the coast of Greenland when a whaling ship spotted her. When the crew boarded the new-found ship, they discovered the bodies of all crew members frozen solid, and almost perfectly preserved. The captain of the Octavius was supposedly frozen stiff, still seated at his captain’s desk, and in the middle of writing a log entry that was dated November 11, 1762. After the encounter with the frozen bodies, the whaling crew refused to search the rest of the ship and promptly got the hell off of the Octavius. The ship had apparently found its way through the Northwest Passage over the past thirteen years by itself. The whaling crew departed, the Octavius drifted away and was never seen again.

    The Kaz II

    Discovered: April 18, 2007

    kaz IIThe Kaz II was a 10-meter yacht that was found drifting, unmanned, off the northern coast of Australia in 2007. There was nothing physically wrong with the boat, and everything about the setting appeared completely normal. When investigators boarded the yacht, they found place settings on the table, life vests still hanging on their designated hooks, and a laptop sitting. opened and powered on, on the table. In fact, the only peculiarity was that there were no people on board. Upon later investigation, it was discovered that the boat had been occupied by three men, one of whom was the owner of the yacht and a very experienced yachtsman. The three friends had left three days earlier on a yachting excursion. Investigators analyzed GPS equipment on the yacht and determined the exact time and location that the crew vanished, setting the yacht adrift on its own. After exhaustive investigations and search and rescue efforts, no bodies or additional evidence were ever discovered. It’s presumed that all three of the crew members must have fallen overboard at the same time, although no foul weather was reported during the entire trip.

    The Ourang Medan

    Discovered: June, 1947

    ghost shipThe Ourang Medan was a dutch cargo ship. In June of 1947, two American vessels sailing in Indonesian waters received a distress signal from the Ourang Medan. A radio operator on board the troubled vessel reported that the captain and all of the ship’s officers were dead, and suggested that some or all of the crew may have also been killed. The radio operator was clearly distressed, and his speaking became very jarbled and convoluted. The operator ended his transmission with two simple, super-creepy words: “I die.” Upon locating and boarding the vessel, the Americans supposedly discovered the ship littered with dead crew members, all of whom had died with horrified looks on their face, seemingly attempting to shield themselves from an unknown killer. Before the crew was able to investigate further or salvage anything, the ship caught fire and soon exploded. Investigators believe that the ship may have been illegally transporting toxic chemicals that, upon reacting with sea water in the cargo area, released noxious fumes, poisoning the entire ship and then exploding.

    The Carroll A. Deering

    Discovered: 1921

    ghost shipThe Carroll A. Deering was a commercial schooner that was discovered on the beach in North Carolina with no crew onboard. The Deering was carrying coal from Virginia to Rio de Janeiro, but the ship had to stop off temporarily when the ship’s captain fell ill. After the captain was dropped off in Delaware, the ship continued on its voyage, but apparently it never made it past North Carolina. Nobody knows what happened to the ship’s crew, but a bizarre number of un-crewed ships turned up during this time, fueling the myth of the Bermuda Triangle.

    The High Aim 6

    Discovered: 2003

    ghost shipIt wouldn’t be fair to exclude High Aim 6 from this list, because this is a ghost ship mystery that was actually solved…kind of. In October of 2002, the High Aim 6 fishing boat departed from Taiwan. In January of 2003, the ship was discovered drifting off the coast of Australia. Officials boarded the boat and found that the crew was gone. Initial inspections showed no sign of a struggle, and all of the crewmens’ personal belongings were still there. Investigators immediately tracked down the ship’s manifest and discovered that phone calls were still coming from one of the crewman’s cell phones in Indonesia. Indonesian police tracked the crew man down, and eventually he confessed that the crew had staged a mutiny onboard the ship, killing the captain and the engineer. The crewman never gave officials a reason for the mutiny, probably because the Indonesian police don’t wait around for answers. The High Aim 6 incident serves as proof that sometimes Ghost Ship scenarios aren’t always as weird as they initially seem to be.

    The Jian Seng

    Discovered: 2006

    ghost shipAustralia is pretty much the Ghost Ship capitol of the world. In 2006, the Australian government discovered an 80-meter tanker drifting in a remote region of Australian water. They promptly photographed the ship and sent vessels out to investigate, thinking that it may have been part of an vast illegal Indonesian fishing trade that plagues large regions of Australia’s oceans. Upon reaching the vessel, they found the ship to be completely abandoned and very torn up. The cargo region was filled with rice, suggesting that it may have been used in the illegal fishing trade at one point, but it had clearly been decommissioned some time ago. The discovery of the Jian Seng sparked intense political debate in Australia, as the enormous ship had drifted a considerable distance into Australian territory before being discovered.

    The Jenny

    Discovered: 1840

    ghost shipThe Jenny story is almost exactly like the story of the Octavius (above), which suggests that one or both of these stories may be fictional. As the story goes, a Schooner boat named Jenny entered the Drake Passage in 1823 and got stuck in the ice. The boat was not seen again until September 22, 1840, when a whaling ship found it drifting in the ocean after 17 years of frozen captivity. When the whaling crew boarded the ship, they found the entire crew (including a dog) completely frozen and well-preserved. Like in the Octavius story, the captain of the Jenny was found sitting in his chair, pen in hand. His final Captain’s Log entry read: “May 4, 1823: No food for 71 days. I am the only one left alive.”





    1. Oscar says:

      The Jian Seng was 80 METRES long, (240 feet) rather than 80 feet as you have reported in this article.

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