In 1947, a ghost ship adrift in Indonesian waters surprised the two American ships that rushed to a distress signal from the Ourang Medan off the Marshall Islands.
What happened to the dead crew began decades of speculation. In fact, much about the history of the ship and its mission were vague and even registration of its name and owners was unable to be pinpointed.
The story goes that the ship was carrying a large and badly stored stock of sulfuric acid and it was believed much of the crew died from the fumes. It was reported to have been supposedly going from China to Costa Rica.
Source: A radio operator aboard the troubled vessel sent the following Morse code message: "S.O.S. from Ourang Medan * * * we float. All officers including the Captain, dead in chartroom and on the bridge. Probably whole of crew dead * * *." A few confused dots and dashes later two words came through clearly. They were "I die." Then, nothing more.
When Silver Star crew located and boarded the apparently undamaged Ourang Medan in a rescue attempt, the ship was found littered with corpses (including the carcass of a dog) "[s]prawled on their backs, the frozen faces upturned to the sun with mouths gaping open and eyes staring, the dead bodies resembled horrible caricatures", with no survivors and no visible signs of injuries on the dead bodies.
A fire then broke out in the ship's No. 4 cargo hold, forcing the boarding parties to evacuate the Dutch freighter, thus preventing any further investigation. Soon after, Ourang Medan was observed to explode and sink.
Even the communications officer was found dead with his fingers still upon the telegraph he sent the emergency message on.
To most appearances, all the dead bodies were in agony, eyes open, arms seeming to fend someone off. The crew that discovered their bodies said that they seemed to have died in some agony. As well, they felt that it was frigid cold inside the hold.
It could have ended there as a terrible tragedy on a ship moving dangerous materials, but with it sinking and records of its existence being impossible to locate, it was almost as if the whole thing were a mirage if they hadn't heard the SOS call and taken a photo of a dead body on board.
**Tomorrow's post is "Haunted Lakes"**