Skip navigation

The death ship- - THE SS Ourang Medan

The death ship- - THE SS Ourang Medan  
 
Our world is filled with mystery. ‘Lost’ cities, forgotten civilizations, vanished people and places and a plethora of unexplained happenings.
 
Since more than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, it makes sense that our oceans would be home to the majority of these mysteries. Combined with legend, folklore and imagination, and given the fact that man has traveled the seas since the earliest times, tales of ghost ships, tragedies and sunken treasure ships abound.

One such tale surrounds the Ourang Medan, often referred to as The Death Ship.
 
In February 1948, distress calls were picked up near Indonesia from a Dutch freighter identifying itself as the SS Ourang Medan. The chilling message was, "All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead." This message was followed by indecipherable Morse code then one final grisly message... "I die."
Then - - - silence.
 
Two American vessels navigating the Strait of Malacca, the City of Baltimore and the Silver Star, among others, picked up distress messages and immediately set out to render aid.
When the Silver Star crew located and boarded the apparently undamaged Ourang Medan, the ship they found
 
was found littered with corpses in what appeared to be terrified postures, arms outstretched towards the sun, with no survivors and no visible signs of injuries on the dead bodies.
 
The decks of the vessel littered with corpses; their eyes wide, their arms grasping at unseen assailants, their faces twisted into revolting visages of agony and horror. Even the ship’s dog was dead; it’s once intimidating snarl frozen into a ghastly grimace.
 
The boarding party found the Captain’s remains on the bridge, while his officers’ cadavers were strewn about the wheelhouse and chartroom. The communications officer was still at his post, as dead as the rest, his fingertips resting on the telegraph. All of the corpses, according to reports, bore the same terrified, wide-eyed expressions as the crew on deck.
Below deck, search party members found corpses in the boiler room.
 
It was obvious that the crew of the Ourang Medan suffered in agony at the moment of their deaths,  but searchers could find no evidence of injury or foul play on the swiftly decaying corpses. Nor could they find any damage to the ship itself.
Eerily, American crew members claimed to have felt an extreme chill in the hold, even though the temperature outside was a scorching 110°F.
 
Before the ship could be fully explored, a fire broke out in the ship's cargo hold, forcing the boarding parties to evacuate ship. Soon after, the Ourang Medan exploded and sink.
 
Curious and mystifying, but what makes the tale really interesting is the back story of the ship and its history.
 
The earliest known reference to the ship and the incident is in the May 1952 issue of the Proceedings of the Merchant Marine Council, published by the United States Coast Guard. The issue gives little hard information and no proof of the actual incident.

Other accounts of the ship's accident have appeared in various books and magazines, but their factual accuracy and even the ship's existence, are unconfirmed, and details of the vessel's construction and history, if any, remain unknown. Searches for official registration and/or accident investigation records have proven unsuccessful.

We know that the Silver Star was real, but there’s no paper trail leading to the Ourang Medan.

Was the ship real and did the accident actually happen, or is it just another legend of the sea?
 
There are essentially five theories:
  1. Carbon monoxide poisoning
This theory claims that an undetected smoldering fire or malfunction in the ship's boiler system might have been responsible for the tragedy. Escaping carbon monoxide would have caused the deaths of all aboard, with the fire slowly getting out of control, leading to the vessel's ultimate destruction.
 
    Paranormal phenomena
Beginning with a 1953 article in Fate Magazine, there has been speculation that the crew might have been attacked by UFOs or paranormal forces prior to their deaths. Circumstantial evidence cited by these sources includes the apparent absence of a natural cause of death, the reportedly terrified expressions on the faces of the deceased, and rumors that some of the dead were "pointing" towards an unknown enemy.
 
    Hoax
Hinting at the possibility of a hoax is the inability to find any mention of the case in Lloyd's Shipping Register, and no registration records for a ship by the name of Ourang Medan can be located in various countries, including the Netherlands.
Suspiciously, no survivors of the Silver Star have ever come forward to verify the tale.
However, the fact that the United States Coast Guard seems to have confirmed the tale, and that other noted nautical authors have invested so much time and so many resources in availing themselves of the truth, seems to point to at least a bit of credibility to the story.
 
    Natural accident
Any number of natural occurrences could account for the demise of the Ourang Medan, such as a boiler fire, a sudden giant rogue wave, an unexpected tsunami, a massive waterspout or numerous other natural phenomenon. There is no mention, in any known report, of an indication of such natural events and with the sinking of the Ourang Medan, it is unlikely any will be found.
 
    Unsecured hazardous materials cargo
Perhaps the most probable of all the theories, it is known that an assembly of Japanese scientists had been conducting experiments on nerve gas and other biological weapons. Following World War II, these weapons and experimental notes were confiscated by the U.S. Government and scheduled to be shipped to America.

There the trail ends.

No further information on their whereabouts or dispensation can be found.
Speculation is that, under a cloak of extreme secrecy, the Ourang Medan may have been transporting these chemical weapons to the U.S. which, due to leakage or accident, were released and overcame the crew.
 
After much examination and investigation, this would appear to be a very likely scenario and would account for the total absence of records of such a ship.
 
We may never know the full truth of the mission or the fate of the Ourang Medan, and it will be relegated to just another entry on the list of legendary mysteries of the sea.
 
Our story does not end here, though.
The possible ties of the ship to Japanese secret biological research, demands that we look deeper into what those experiments were and what became of them.
 
We shall detail these scientists, whose agenda was to create the most deadly forms of chemical and biological weapons known to man in, “Unit 731 - A Den of Cannibals”
 
I will give you fair warning that this article contains some explicit, and disturbing, information and photos.
Discretion is advised.