Do “ghost ships” really roam the world’s oceans with no one on board to man them?

Do “ghost ships” really roam the world’s oceans with no one on board to man them?

Do “ghost ships” really roam the world’s oceans with no one on board to man them?

On August 11, 1775, lookouts on the whaler Herald spotted something strange in the waters off the coast of Greenland. A three-masted schooner, named the Octaveseemingly glistening with ice and snow, was drifting towards them – with no crew in sight.

Accompanied by four of his men, the HeraldThe captain of, Warren, boarded the mysterious ship to investigate. What they found was the stuff of horror stories: 28 dead sailors, huddled in their berths as if to protect themselves from the cold; a woman and a child, perfectly preserved together; a sailor, frozen forever in a vain attempt to light a fire on deck. And, in the captain’s quarters, the captain of the ship – still sitting at his desk, writing his last diary entry for this doomed voyage.

It was dated November 11, 1762. The crew had been dead for 13 years.

Most intriguing of all, however, was the ship’s last recorded location: 75°N 160°W, about 402 kilometers (250 miles) north of the place we now know as Utqiagvik, Alaska. . The Octave, it seemed, had done the impossible: it had successfully traversed the Northwest Passage, nearly a century before any other ship had done the same. And he had done it without a living soul on board.

At least, so goes the legend. But is there any truth to this story? Or is it just another ghost story, like Davy Jones or the Flying Dutchman before him, said to frighten impressionable youth away from the cruel and capricious sea?

The annoying truth is that it’s almost certainly nothing more than a legend. The first reference to the Octave seems to come from around 1828, more than half a century after its supposed discovery, in the American literary gazette The Ariel.

However, earlier versions can be found, with the ship renamed the Gloriana, or even unnamed at all, and the voyage of the ship transported from the Northwest Passage to the Baltic Sea. Later accounts named the ship The Jenny, and his fate sealed entirely on the other side of the planet – but all other details remain the same. In other words, it was always just a sailor ghost story.

But the 19th and 20th century fascination with ghost ships, languidly haunting the edges of the planet in search of a doomed mission, didn’t come out of nowhere – and there are a case or two. in the story where the so-called “ghost ships” turned out to be as real as you and me.

Take, for example, the aptly named HMS Terror. She was also a ship that apparently disappeared during an ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage, taking with her more than 120 lives and her sister ship, the HMS Erebus.

As icy seas froze around the ships, they quickly stalled and the crew abandoned ship in hopes of marching south to safety. But with only shoddy rations to feed them, and thousands of miles of frozen wasteland between them and their rescue, they all died. Subsequent search parties found only their skeletons and journals recording their disappearance.

Originally destroyed by arctic weather in 1848, the Erebus and the Terror became the subjects of one of the world’s greatest maritime mysteries until their eventual discoveries in 2014 and 2016, respectively. As the Octaveships were apparently frozen in time: the Terror was in such perfect condition, Arctic Research Foundation spokesman Adrian Schimnowski told CNN at the time, that “if you could lift [it] out of the water and pump the water out, it would probably float.

Then there is the S.S. Baychimo, a ghost ship with the particularity of having real photographic evidence to support it. After nearly two decades of successful navigation around the Arctic Oceans, the ship was caught in a blizzard at the Sea Horse Islands, not far from where Octave supposedly recorded its last location. Again crew and passengers abandoned ship – some were taken to Alaska and Vancouver, while a few crew wintered nearby until the ship was ready to start again to move.

But in November of that year, another storm hit. When he broke free, the baychimo was gone.

“The captain and crew assumed the ship had sunk,” explained Cortney Pachet, associate of collections registration at the Manitoba Museum in 2020. “But they quickly learned that an Inuk hunter had spotted the baychimoonce again encased in ice, about 72 km south of their camp.

The crew found the ship once more, salvaged whatever valuables remained on board, and left it on the ice. But it wouldn’t be the last baychimo: Between then and 1969, the unmanned vessel would be seen sailing through the Arctic seas at least seven times, with some onlookers even boarding the mysterious ship.

The S.S. Baychimo hasn’t been seen for over 50 years now, but that hasn’t stopped people from looking for it – along with the nearly 4,000 other ships that have been wrecked along the Arctic coast. And although she probably ended up, like so many others before her, at the bottom of the ocean, one thing is certain: if HMS Terror may end up after nearly 170 years under the icy depths, perhaps S.S. Baychimo has a chance too.

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