On board, unfortunately, anything can happen. In the past mutinies and pirate attacks were the rule; in more recent sailing we have heard of falls overboard and sailors being swept away by the waves. How many times has the boat outlived its captain! We offer the stories of eight ghost boat finds, from the 1840s to the present day. Can you think of any others?
EIGHT (TRUE) STORIES OF GHOST BOATS
1840 – TRAPPED IN ICE AND FROZEN
The captain of the Schooner Jenny wrote: “May 4, 1823. No food for 71 days. I am the only survivor.” In 1840, the ship was found trapped in the ice of the South Pole. The captain still sat in his chair with pen in hand. His body and those of six others were preserved from the icy Antarctic temperatures. A dog was also with them.
1872 – THE MOST FAMOUS GHOST SHIP
Perhaps the best known of the ghost ship stories is that of the Canadian brig Mary Celeste. In 1872 it was found in the Atlantic Ocean with its cargo intact. But no trace of passengers or crew on board. What had happened? At that time the crews were not a few people! To this day the fact remains shrouded in mystery because the finding of cargo and food excludes the possibility of storms or pirate attack…
1921 – IN THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE
Mutiny? Pirates? Something supernatural happening in the Bermuda Triangle? Apparently five shafts Carrol A. Deering was on his way back from Virginia to Rio with his load of coal. The ship was found at a North Carolina location in 1921, completely empty. Nothing was ever known about the crew and the U.S. government never came out with an official explanation about it.
1975 – THE ARTIST WHO DISAPPEARED AT SEA
Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader was reported lost at sea in 1975 while making a solo crossing of the Atlantic from Cape Cod (U.S.) to Falmouth (U.K.) on a small sailboat, the Ocean Wave (a Guppy 13 only 4 meters long). The daring voyage was part of a performance art entitled In Search of the Miraculous: Ader was a talented sailor, doubling with the hatchet he had already sailed from Morocco to California in 1963. The boat was found off the coast of Ireland as it was tipped vertically bow down; the body was never found, leaving an aura of mystery. Some ventured that suicide was part of the performance….
2007 – THE GHOST CATAMARAN
On April 15, 2007, three men decided to go out to sea along the coast of Australia aboard the catamaran Kaz II. Their boat returned intact to the reef. Everything was perfectly in place: food was on the table, there was even the laptop on, and all the life jackets were hanging in the locker. But of human beings on board no trace. Yet the sea was calm! According to reconstructions, one of the three sailors may have fallen overboard and the other two, in an attempt to rescue him, jumped into the water and disappeared with him.
2009 – THE END OF JURE STERK
At 72, Zagreb native Jure Sterk wanted to become the oldest man to circumnavigate the world, doing so on the smallest boat without a motor, the Lunatic. He was no novice: he had three Mini Transats on his back, several ocean crossings, and between 1991 and ’94 he had completed a round-the-world voyage on a self-built 6.50 m and had written four books about his adventures. He left in 2007; the last time he was heard over the radio was January 1, 2009. Then the silence. The damaged boat was seen on Jan. 26 about 1,000 miles off Australia. It was recovered on April 30 800 miles further southwest, sails torn. Of course, no sign of Sterk.
2016 – THE BOAT WITH THE MUMMY ON BOARD
In March 2016, A group of fishermen off the Philippine coast made a gruesome discovery. Inside a Jeanneau Sun Magic 44, half-sunken, mastless and adrift, the mummy of its captain is found. According to authorities’ reconstruction, he was Manfred Fritz Bajorat, 59, from Germany, who had been out on the seas since 2008, when he separated from his wife, who later died of cancer. He had not been heard from since 2009. His mummified body was found at the chart table. That he had tried to call for help caught in an illness?
2016 – GOODBYE, GUO CHUAN!
In October 2016, Chinese yachtsman Guo Chuan, a national idol who became world famous after setting the record for solo nonstop circumnavigation of the globe on a Class 40 in 2012, disappeared off the coast of Hawaii during the Transpacific crossing aboard the maxi-trimaran he had purchased from Francis Joyon. All attempts to contact him by the shore team are unsuccessful, and the rescue sends a reconnaissance plane that finds the trimaran all intact and the mainsail reefed out. But unfortunately no trace of the Chinese skipper. The boat continued to sail just like a ghost ship.
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