Ourang Medan – The Death Ship
- Unsolved Mysteries
- The rapid dit’s and dah’s tapped out on the receiver – Morse code. Although the sender must have being frantic, the electric pulses came across in a smooth steady stream. Two American vessels making their way through the strait of Malacca received the troubling message:
"All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead."
A brief pause followed by more code, this time indecipherable. As the nonsense pulses gave way, a final disturbing message is received:
It was 1947 and the troubled Dutch merchant ship ‘Ourang Medan’ was about to make it into the lists of great unsolved mysteries.
With such urgency in the message, not to mention the dire situation it described, the American ‘Silver Star’ set off to locate the Ourang Medan.
Within hours the Ourang Medan came into sight, drifting lazily in the water. For all intent and purposes the Ourang Medan looked to be completely undamaged. After several attempts to hail the crew went unanswered a decision to board the vessel was made.
A boarding party was assembled and sent across to see what was going on. As the party made their way on deck, they came across a truly bizarre and frightening spectacle. The decks were littered with the bodies of the Ourang Medan’s crew. They lay on their backs, their eyes were open looking to the sky, and their arms were outstretched towards the sun. Even the ships dog was found dead.
There were no visible injuries found on any of the bodies, and nor were there any survivors. Below deck more bodies were found, including that of the communication officer who had sent the messages that were received by the Silver Star. The captain was found on the bridge, as were his officers.
When searching the boiler room of the ship the party noticed that it was incredibly chilly there, the rest of the ship was quite warm, even hot.
An investigation was to get under way immediately, however a mysterious fire broke out below deck, and as the boarding party were unable to contain it, they left the ship. Soon after the ship exploded and slowly sank into the deep.
No one would ever know what occurred on that ship, to kill off the entire crew.
However, just because it is not certain as to what took place, it does not mean there are no theories floating about.
A number of people have theorised that there may have been a cargo of hazardous chemicals on board the ship. Perhaps some salt water had reacted with the chemicals, causing gasses that asphyxiated the crew, and also the same reactions may have generated enough heat to start the fire and subsequent explosion.
Perhaps the fire itself was to blame, that carbon monoxide and other noxious smoke and vapours had killed the crew (and of course resulted in the explosion).
Could the ship have been smuggling nerve agents through the Indonesian waters, maybe a leak in such cargo killed the crew?
Then of course there are all manner of explanations from the paranormal realm – extraterrestrials, spirits from the deep, curses… anything else you care to mention.
Finally there is the most accepted explanation of all – that there never was a Ourang Medan in the first place, that the events never took place and it is all just a sea bound urban legend. Although some aspects of the story can be proven, that the Silver Star (at the time named Santa Juana) was in those waters at the time of the incident, and that there had been several records from that time, there were no published documentation about the event until a full four years after it was supposed to have happened.
Regardless, it makes for a good tale, either as an unsolved mystery or an urban legend.
Ashley Hall 2013
Photos: Santa Juana, the ‘Silver Star’ of the story.
Inset left: A photo many websites claim to be of the Ourang Medan.
Inset right: Was it a chemical release that killed the crew?
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