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Mystery of ‘ghost ship’ where entire crew’s bodies were found dead has never been solved

Mystery of ‘ghost ship’ where entire crew’s bodies were found dead has never been solved

Ghost ships may sound like the stuff of Disney swashbucklers, but there’s one that has been scratching heads for decades after reports of mysterious distress calls came through to boats in Indonesia.

The SS Ourang Medan was believed to be shipwrecked in the 1940s in the Straits of Malacca after the crew supposedly died.

Over the years, many questions have been raised about what really happened – that’s if the ship ever existed in the first place.

According to a number of reports at the time, a nearby ship picked up a strange distress call from the Ourang Medan, saying the entire shop’s crew was dead, with the radio operator then sending out one final message.

“All officers including captain dead, lying in chartroom and on bridge, probably whole crew dead,” it said.

After an unintelligible flurry of morse code, they said chillingly: “I die.”

The mystery has never been solved. Credit: Shutterstock
The mystery has never been solved. Credit: Shutterstock

There were reports that an American vessel called the Silver Star went to respond to the distress call, with a group of men finding the all-dead crew (including a dog) lying on their backs with their faces turned to the sun, mouths wide open.

As the Silver Star set out to tow the ship – and this is where things get really wild – a fire is said to have broken out in its bowels, before it exploded and, um, just disappeared?

Now, there are a number of issues with accounts of what happened.

Firstly, there’s no mention of the ship registration in Lloyd’s Shipping registers, nor any official record of the scene that met the crew of the Silver Star or the following explosion.

There hasn’t even ever been an exact confirmed date, with various newspapers stating years spanning from 1940 to 1947 or 1948, leading some to believe it’s just a maritime myth.

According to Ripley’s Believe it or Not, a franchise dealing in bizarre and unexplained events, there are a number of explanations for what could have happened.

It is believed a distress call said all crew members were dead. Credit: Shutterstock
It is believed a distress call said all crew members were dead. Credit: Shutterstock

“As for the unfortunate crew, various possibilities arise,” its website explains.

“A pirate attack certainly wouldn’t be out of the question, but most accounts claim that the bodies were largely unwounded.

“The circumstances hint towards a release of dangerous gases – another volatile and controversial, yet familiar, cargo in the international climate.”

It continues: “The possibility of a supernatural or otherworldly incident has been raised, and that’s impossible to verify.

“There are so many loose ends here, but one thing is for certain: the case is one of the most fascinating in nautical history, and much like Jack the Ripper’s identity and countless other unsolved mysteries, it’s precisely impossible nature that continues to capture our imaginations.”

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