The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman is one of the most famous ghost ships, having been mentioned frequently since the 17th century. The ship is said to be captained by the Dutch sailor Vandervecken and legend has it that whilst sailing towards the treacherous Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, the ship was caught in a violent tempest. Even with the threat of sinking, Vandervecken refused to give up and swore an oath to Devil, that he would round the Cape even if it took him until the end of time, dooming the ship to forever sail the seas.

The ship is frequently mentioned as an omen of misfortune and disaster, and in fact sailors went to great lengths to prevent seeing the ship and being cursed, by nailing horseshoes to the hull of the ship, as this was believed to bring good luck. So if you see a flying ghost ship, make sure your boat has horseshoes nailed to it! Its fame has caused it to be frequently featured in popular culture, such as in the Hollywood blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean, where it is instead captained by Davy Jones.

High Aim 6

Ghost boat

Wonderlane – Flickr CC

The High Aim 6 was a Taiwanese fishing boat which was found without its crew in Australian waters in January 2003. What’s strange is that all of the crew’s personal belongings were still on board the ship, with no signs of distress at all. The ship’s motor was even still running when it was sighted, five days before being boarded.

The ship’s hold was full of rotting fish, and there were plenty of provisions and fuel onboard the ship, ruling out any possibility of the crew travelling via rowboat for help. One crew member was eventually tracked down, who confessed that the crew murdered the ship’s captain and engineer. The twist is that no reason was ever given for this, and none of the other crew members have ever been found.

S.S. Ourang Medan

Ghost ship

Vicki Timman – Flickr CC

The Ourang Medan was a Dutch cargo ship wrecked in Indonesia in 1947. It was discovered by American sailors, who had received morse code distress calls from the vessel stating “All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possible whole crew dead.” The next message received was particularly chilling, “I die.”

When the US crew boarded the ship, they saw that the whole crew was dead, and were frozen in horror, mouths agape, staring at the sun. The ship was then said to have caught fire, with which the US crew left the ship, which exploded shortly after. Some modern explanations have attributed the cause of death and explosion to leakage of a possible cargo of sulphuric acid, which would have killed the crew with its poisonous fumes and potentially caused an explosion. Whether or not this is the case, it is a truly chilling story.