Sea Stories

A Sea Mystery to Match that of the Mary Celeste

This enigmatic incident with sinister undertones took place either in June 1947 or in February 1948. It sounds paradoxical, but it is a fact. Even the time of the calamity’s occurrence is unknown, although the mysterious case is inextricably linked with the usual good order of the maritime world.

On any vessel there is a logbook, a watch-by-watch diary where all incidents are scrupulously recorded, indicating the number and time. The mariner’s equivalent to an airliner’s ‘red box’, the log is the most important chronicle carried on any vessel.

At the expiration of the year, the captain surrenders the ship’s log to the archive and is stored forever. However, the journal did not help in this situation, because the ship’s log was simply not found on the doomed ship. But consider everything in order.

On one of the approximate dates of the uncanny incident that occurred in the Strait of Malacca (the strait between the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra) were sailing the American ships Baltimore and Silver Star.

At some point, the two vessels simultaneously received an SOS signal from the Dutch merchant ship Ourang Medan (Orang Medan). The radio operator of the ship in distress reported the following:

‘SOS from Ourang Medan. A team of 9 people, please help. The captain is dead, probably dead, and other crew members,’ and after a minute, another signal came: ‘I’m dying.’

According to maritime law, having received the distress signal, the nearby ships must immediately change course and rush to the rescue. In this situation, the Silver Star headed to the presumed place of the unfolding tragedy. Reaching the coordinates indicated by the radio operator, the Americans did see a ship on the water.

Having boarded the stricken vessel they discovered the corpses of the crew and the carcass of a dog. All the bodies lay on their backs, as it were, in a frozen state. On each face was an expression of abject horror. On each their unloving eyes were open and staring. Each of the victims’ limbs were unnaturally positioned. Everything indicated that people died in agony, while there were no visible injuries on their bodies.

The vessel itself was in good condition, but the inspection by the boarding party was suddenly interrupted by a fire that spontaneously flared up in the cargo hold. The concealed interior could have included explosives or inflammable substances, the rescuers hurriedly left the ship, and after a while, there was an explosion.

Ourang Medan split into two parts and soon afterwards sank out of sight and with it, the bodies of dead people disappeared into the depths of the sea. As a result, further investigation of the tragedy was impossible.

In summary: There is a distress signal, the crew hastened to help the sinking ship but the matter turned out to be that the Ourang Medan did not pass under any documents at all. That is, the ship with this name was not registered in the Dutch merchant fleet, nor in any other. How did you even know about this tragedy, where did the mystery Ourang Medan come from?

The first official mention of such a case with a Dutch merchant vessel appeared in May 1952 in a publication by the US Coast Guard. This incident was reinforced by the stories of members of the Silver Star team. Such an unusual incident interested journalists. They reviewed the Lloyd’s Register, other registries, and it turned out that such a vessel never existed. Then they turned to the Coast Guard and explained that the incident was described in three articles in an Indonesian newspaper. Articles were dated 02/03/1948, 02/28/1948 and 03/13/1948. It is from these articles that mysterious facts were drawn.

The third article claimed that one of the crew members of the mysterious ship escaped. He was discovered by a missionary and natives on one of the atoll islands. The survivor was in very poor condition and before his death, said that the ship was carrying sulphuric acid.

One of the containers was broken, and people died from toxic fumes. The ship had illegally loaded the deadly cargo in a Costa Rican port. This story was subsequently reprinted by a Dutch newspaper, suggesting that Ourang Medan was engaged in smuggling nitro-glycerine and potassium cyanide.

It was not possible to find members of the Silver Star crew, but historian Roy Baynton discovered a brochure printed in the in German language, published in 1954. The article’s author was an Otto Milke. The brochure was entirely devoted to the mysterious ship called Ourang Medan. It even revealed the name of the ship’s captain and the date of the disappearance of the ship, June 18, 1947.

The author claimed that the ship regularly engaged in the illegal transport of various hazardous chemicals. On the vessel’s final voyage, it took on board just cyanide and nitro-glycerine. Upon contact with water, these substances begin to pose a real danger. Therefore, the crew, in case of leakage of potassium cyanide, would be fatally poisoned, and nitro-glycerine had caused the spontaneous fire and an explosion. As for anonymity, the ship in the registers could be listed under a different name, taking into account the specifics of transportation.

On the basis of this brochure, some journalists have suggested that the vessel was carrying nervously paralytic gas. Japanese military stored such chemical weapons in China during the Second World War.

After the defeat of Japan in August 1945, the gas was transferred to the US armed forces. Hence the conclusion that this carriage was carried out secretly with the knowledge of the US command. Therefore, they took the ship, renamed it, but apparently violated the rules of transportation, and the crew perished as a consequence.

It was also suggested that the crew of the ill-fated vessel was poisoned by carbon monoxide as a result of faults in the boiler system. The released carbon monoxide led to the death of the entire crew and then destroyed the vessel.

And of course, there were people who voiced the paranormal version. Here came the hypothesis that the mystery Ourang Medan is inextricably linked with the appearance of a UFO. It is a mysterious object that attacked the ship. The crew died while the ship itself exploded. An indirect proof of this statement was the absence of traces in corpses indicating natural death.

But in any case, there are always sceptics. Many authors of various articles covering this topic agreed that the whole story with a mysterious ship, which does not appear in any registries, is a fiction. There is not even direct evidence that it was the Silver Star that went to the aid of the distressed crew. The question concerning the mystery of ‘Ourang Medan’ remains open to this day. Source Edited by Michael Walsh.

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