Archives For Ghost Ships

message in a bottle

Sister Ship of SS Naronic

“Feb.  19, 1893- Naronic sinking. All hands praying. God have mercy on us.”  ~L. Winsel

On February 11, 1893, the White Star Line steamer SS Naronic departed Liverpool for New York with 74 crew as well as 3,600 tons of general cargo. Built in 1892 by Harland and Wolff, the same company that would build the ill-fated Titanic, the Naronic measured 470 feet in length and had twin coal fired reciprocating engines capable of propelling her through the waves at a steady 13 knots. Although the ship had been built as a cattle vessel, additional passenger accommodations were added to permit her to earn extra revenue on non-New York routes.

After landing her pilot at Point Lynas, Wales, the Naronic sailed for New York and entered the mists of history as neither she nor any of her crew members were ever seen again. On March 3, a bottle washed ashore in Bay Ridge, New York with the contents “Feb. 19, 1893 – Naronic sinking. All hands praying. God have mercy on us.” The note was signed by a L. Winsel, but there was no L. Winsel on the Naronic’s manifest – the closest name being John L. Watson. Three more bottles were found over the next six months – one in Virginia, another in the Irish Channel and a fourth in the Mersey River. None were signed by identifiable members of the ship’s crew, but two contained generally the same story – the ship had struck an iceberg in a storm and sunk over the course of a few hours.

A subsequent British Board of Trade inquiry dismissed the iceberg theory as not fitting the weather patterns, but local reports in New York placed icebergs in the general vicinity of where the Naronic was sailing. Two separate reports were made of ships sighting lifeboats from the Naronic but the exact location or cause of her sinking has never been determined – it was even speculated that the ship was the casualty of a terrorist bombing.

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Chernobyl Ghost Ships

Photo: Timm Suess

The past week has seen a slew of articles making their way around the internet about the USSR/Russian “ghost ship” Lyubov Orlova drifting toward the British coast infested with a cargo of cannibal rats. Although the vessel is most likely at the bottom of the ocean, there exists almost an entire fleet of ghost ships rusting away within the confines of the former USSR.

Nearly thirty years ago, on April 26, 1986, the city of Prypiat became ground zero for the most devastating nuclear disaster to date. With the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, the Soviet government was forced to evacuate the city and leave behind personal belongings, vehicles, vessels, factories and homes. In the years since the disaster, photographers and urban explorers have ventured to Prypiat and brought back incredible photos of an abandoned modern society slowly sinking into the irradiated landscape.

Chernobyl Ghost Ship

Baychimo Ghost Ship

SS Baychimo
Photo: Wikimedia

This year the MV Lyubov Orlova became a news sensation as reports of its ghost ship status and subsequent sightings flitted about the internet. As strange as the Orlova’s story is, though, it can never rival its sister ghost ship, the SS Baychimo. The Baychimo began life as the SS Ångermanelfven in Sweden in 1911 and quietly plied the Sweden-Germany trade route until she was handed over to the British government as part of Germany’s war reparations after World War One. Acquired by the Hudson’s Bay Company, the ship was renamed Baychimo and dispatched to the New World to carry goods, especially furs throughout Canada’s upper reaches.

The saga of the Baychimo took a strange turn when, on October 1, 1931, she became trapped in pack ice and was abandoned by her crew. The next few months witnessed several on-again, off-again attempts to winter with the Baychimo in order to bring her safely to port. At one point, the Baychimo broke free of the ice and, unbeknownst to her crew, floated away. After successfully locating the vessel, the crew offloaded the ship’s cargo and abandoned her to the vagaries of the Arctic.

Over the next 8 years, the vessel was sighted several times and even boarded on occasion. Although the vessel was last physically boarded in 1939, Inuits reported sighting the Baychimo as late as 1969. This last sighting has often been called into question, but what is without question is that the ship continued her ghostly haunting of the Arctic Sea for years after her abandonment. The Baychimo’s final resting place, if she has indeed sunk, has yet to be determined. Who knows, perhaps she is still wandering the vast expanse of the Arctic in search of her next cargo.

clipper ship

Clipper Blue Jacket Aflame
Photo: Wrecksite

In 1869 the clipper ship Blue Jacket embarked 71 passengers and crew and departed Lyttelton, New Zealand bound for Liverpool. On March 9, off the coast of the Falkland Islands, the ship caught fire and was abandoned. A total of 39 survivors were picked up with 36 having spent a week adrift and 3 spending 3 weeks subject to the vagaries of the South Atlantic. While March 9th may have signaled the end of the Blue Jacket’s voyage, it marked the beginning of a voyage of a different sort for her figurehead. For nearly 20 months the Blue Jacket’s figurehead floated with the currents and on December 8, 1871 washed ashore on Rottnest Island near Perth, Australia – 6,000 miles from where the Blue Jacket was abandoned.

ghost ship

Carrol A. Deering Run Aground on Diamond Shoals
Photo: Wikimedia

On the morning of January 31, 1921 the five-masted schooner Carrol A. Deering was spotted aground on Diamond Shoals off the coast of North Carolina. Coast Guardsmen from the Cape Hatteras Life-Saving Station rowed out to the ship only to find not a soul aboard and no sign of what might have happened to the crew.

Built in Bath, Maine, the Deering was designed to ply the trading lanes between the eastern seaboard of the US and South America. On her final, ill-fated voyage in January 1921, the ship sailed from Rio de Janeiro and, after a brief stopover in Barbados, continued her voyage north. The ship was last seen manned by the Cape Lookout lightship on January 28, 1921 and only 3 days later she was found run aground nearly 100 miles northeast on Diamond Shoals.

When the Coast Guard was finally able to board the ship on February 4, the Coasties found the ship deserted, the crew’s belongings, navigational equipment and lifeboats gone, and the ship’s galley appearing as if a meal was in the process of being prepared. Despite numerous inquiries at various levels and branches of governments, the mystery of the crew’s disappearance was never solved. The most likely explanation is that the crew mutinied as mutinous comments had been overheard by some observers when the ship was last in port. Other explanations offered over the last 90 years have included piracy, a Communist plot, the Bermuda Triangle and even that the crew was the victim of some paranormal phenomenon. The ship herself survived her crew by only a month as, unable to be re-floated, she was dynamited to prevent her from becoming a hazard to navigation.