- The Magazine
- Stay Curious
- The Sciences
- Planet Earth
What Are Eerie Ghost Ships and How Are They Impacting The Environment?
The mystery behind these haunting vessels isn't what you may think. learn about the eerie phenomenon of ghost ships and their impact on the environment..
The unnerving legend of the merchant ship Mary Celeste has persisted for more than 150 years. In late 1872, the ship left New York . About a month later, it was spotted near the Azores, just bobbing along. The crew on a passing ship sent out several unanswered signals. Sensing something was amiss, a few approached in a lifeboat.
The surprised sailors found the Mary Celeste abandoned. There were no signs of life — or death. The ship’s wheel was eerily spinning on its own, and everything was left in place. The captain’s logbook had a typical, mundane entry from 10 days prior. Food was safely stored. Weather gear was untouched. Historians still debate why the people vanished , and the Mary Celeste has come to exemplify “ghost ships.”
What Are Ghost Ships?
Ghost ships are vessels that are abandoned, sometimes intentionally. Environmental officials refer to them as abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs), and they warn they are an environmental threat and safety hazard. They also advise the number of ADVs are increasing, and it’s not just happening in the open seas but in crowded waterways.
Why Are There Ghost Ships in the Ocean?
Ghost ships have been seen in U.S. rivers, lakes, channels and coastal waters. Why would someone simply abandon a boat? Some boats are lost in hurricanes or other inclement weather. In some cases, a boat runs into mechanical trouble and is abandoned by the crew. But boats are often abandoned due to financial reasons .
Boat maintenance can cost 10 percent of the boat’s overall cost each year. Docking the boat in a slip can add on as much as $5,000 per year. When boats start needing work, some owners opt to abandon them rather than dispose of them properly.
Many boats in the past 50 years have been made of fiberglass , so they aren’t eligible for scrap metal recycling programs that could defray the cost of disposal. Instead, disposal costs deter some owners from properly discarding their vessel. Rather than pay, some owners avoid registering their boats with local authorities so they can simply abandon the boat without it being traced to them.
Intentionally abandoning a boat might involve tying it to a dock and sneaking away. Some boat owners might drive deep into a waterway and then leave it floating. Others might try to intentionally sink their boat. Local or Federal officials are then tasked with removing the vessel.
Read More: Preserved Sunken Ship Found in Shipwreck Alley After 120 Years
How Many Ghost Ships Are There?
State and federal agencies don’t always have the resources to fish abandoned boats from their waterways. In a federal survey , 14 U.S. coastal states reported they identified more than 5,600 ghost ships between 2013 to 2016. But only about 53 percent were removed.
Survey respondents said that budget woes weren’t the only reason they couldn’t recover ghost ships. Many states also had vague policies that made it unclear who should remove the vessel and under which conditions.
Fishing ghost ships out of waterways is costly. In 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to remove an oil-leaking boat from a waterway in Lake Tahoe.
The 40-foot boat was about 300 feet from shore, and authorities saw it as both an environmental and a safety hazard. It cost $20,000 to remove. They eventually identified the boat’s owner but learned he was recently deceased. His next of kin, not surprisingly, has no interest in paying for the boat to be properly disposed of.
Read More: Shackleton’s Ship Found After a Century-Long Search
Why Are Ghost Ships a Problem?
Environmentalists are worried about ghost ships because they don’t just float aimlessly like the Mary Celeste. Many ghost ships sink or run aground in shallow waters. And when they do, they can crush the environment around them. ADVs can destroy coral reefs, mangroves, marshlands, oyster habitats and wetlands.
Either while afloat or under the surface, ghost ships also damage the environment by releasing pollutants. ADVs have leaked chemicals, oils, paint, sewage and other toxins, all of which can contaminate the waters and harm fish, wildlife and their habitats.
Environmental officials also see ghost ships as a safety hazard . Other ships may not expect a sunken ship in a shallow waterway and they could collide. And ADVs that are still afloat can crash into boats, docks and other structures.
Read More: There is Still Time to Save the Coral Reefs
What Can Be Done About Them?
States are increasingly adopting new policies to deal with the ghost ship problem. Some recommend pilot programs that try to recycle fiberglass and increase the chance a boat owner will properly dispose of their unwanted vessel. Others want to develop more stringent registration programs so that boat owners can’t simply abandon their vessel without fear of being found out.
As for the Mary Celeste, the owner was never found. An investigation uncovered that the owner was the missing captain who also brought his wife and young daughter on the trip. With the owner having vanished into thin air, the ship was sold and put back into service. Many considered it a bad luck ship, and it passed through several owners.
In 1882, the Mary Celeste once again became a ghost ship, this time deliberately. The new owner intentionally rammed the ship into a coral reef near Haiti so he could collect insurance money on the cargo. The ship sank and was never recovered.
Read More: No One Knows How Many Shipwrecks Exist, So How Do We Find Them?
- environmental policy
Already a subscriber?
Register or Log In
Keep reading for as low as $1.99!
Sign up for our weekly science updates.
Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.
We have emailed you a PDF version of the article you requested.
Can't find the email?
Please check your spam or junk folder
You can also add [email protected] to your safe senders list to ensure you never miss a message from us.
"Are “Ghost Ships” Really Traveling The World’s Oceans With No One Aboard To Crew Them?"
Cancel and go back
IFLScience needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time.
Sign up today to get weekly science coverage direct to your inbox
© 2023 IFLScience. All Rights Reserved
Newsletters in your inbox!
Subscribe today for our Weekly Newsletter in your inbox!
Are “Ghost Ships” Really Traveling The World’s Oceans With No One Aboard To Crew Them?
The words “ghost ship” should give you an inkling of the truth..
Dr. Katie Spalding
Katie has a PhD in maths, specializing in the intersection of dynamical systems and number theory.
Book View full profile
Book Read IFLScience Editorial Policy
DOWNLOAD PDF VERSION
Many tales have been told of spectral sea voyages. Image credit: Art fantasy/Shutterstock.com
On August 11, 1775, lookouts on the whaling vessel Herald spotted something strange in the waters off the coast of Greenland. A three-masted schooner, named the Octavius , seemingly sparkling with ice and snow, was drifting towards them – with no crew in sight.
Accompanied by four of his men, the Herald ’s captain, Warren, boarded the mysterious ship to investigate. What they found was the stuff of horror stories: 28 dead seamen, huddling in their bunks as if to protect themselves from the cold; a woman and child, perfectly preserved together; a sailor, forever frozen in a futile attempt to build a fire on the deck. And, in the captain’s quarters, the master of the ship – still sitting at his desk, writing his last journal entry for this doomed voyage.
It was dated November 11, 1762. The crew had been dead for 13 years.
At least, so the legend goes. But is there any truth to this tale? Or is it just another ghost story, like Davy Jones or the Flying Dutchman before it, told to frighten the young and impressionable away from the cruel and capricious sea?
The boring truth is, it’s almost certainly nothing more than legend. The earliest reference to the Octavius seems to come from around 1828 , more than half a century after its supposed discovery, in the American literary gazette The Ariel.
Yet earlier versions can be found , with the ship renamed the Gloriana , or even given no name at all, and the ship’s journey transported from the Northwest Passage to the Baltic Sea. Later retellings have the ship christened The Jenny , and her fate sealed on the other side of the planet entirely – but all other details remain the same. In other words, it always was just a sailors’ ghost story.
But the 19th and 20th centuries’ fascination with ghost ships, languidly haunting the edges of the planet in search of a doomed mission, didn’t come from nowhere – and there are one or two cases from history where so-called “ghost ships” turned out to be as real as you and me.
Take, for example, the aptly-named HMS Terror . This, too, was a ship that seemingly vanished during an ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage, taking with it more than 120 lives and its sister ship, the HMS Erebus .
As the icy seas froze around the ships, they became stuck fast, and the crew abandoned ship in the hopes of walking south to safety. But with only poor-quality rations to sustain them, and thousands of kilometers of frozen wasteland between them and their rescue, they all died . Subsequent search parties found only their skeletons, and diaries recording their demise.
Originally wrecked by the 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. Like the Octavius , the ships were seemingly frozen in time: the Terror was in such pristine 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’s the SS Baychimo , a ghost ship with the distinction of having actual photographic evidence supporting it. After nearly two decades of successful navigation around the Arctic oceans, the ship was surprised by a blizzard at the Sea Horse Islands, not far from where the Octavius supposedly recorded her last location. Again, the crew and passengers abandoned ship – some were taken to Alaska and Vancouver, while a few crew members overwintered nearby until the ship was ready to start moving again.
But in November of that year, another storm hit. When it cleared, the Baychimo was gone.
“The captain and crew assumed the vessel had sunk,” explained Cortney Pachet, Collections Registration Associate at the Manitoba Museum back in 2020 . “But they soon received word that an Inuk hunter had spotted the Baychimo , once again packed in ice, roughly 72 km south of their encampment.”
The crew tracked down the ship once again, recovered anything valuable still on board, and abandoned her to the ice. But that wouldn’t be the last of the Baychimo : between that point and 1969, the crewless ship would be seen sailing through the Arctic seas at least seven times, with some onlookers even boarding the mysterious ship.
The SS Baychimo has not been seen in more than 50 years now, but that hasn’t stopped people from looking for her – along with the estimated 4,000 other ships wrecked along the Arctic coast. And while she’s most likely ended up, like so many before her, on the bottom of the ocean by now, one thing’s for sure: if HMS Terror can turn up after nearly 170 years under the icy depths, maybe SS Baychimo stands a chance too.
ARTICLE POSTED IN
More Humans Stories
Bog Bodies And Desert Deaths: How Natural Mummification Really Works
4,000-Year-Old Stone Is Treasure Map For The Ancient World
The Neurology Of Taste: How Your Brain Perceives Flavor
IFLScience The Big Questions: Are We Ready For The Next Massive Solar Flare?
IFLScience The Big Questions: How Are Glaciers Changing In A Warming World?
What NASA Said In Their Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Study Report
- Inside FleetMon
- Site Updates
- FleetMon Apps
- Ship Spotter Profiles
- AIS Station Update
- Maritime Knowledge
Ghost Ships and the Seven Seas
The maritime folklore of ghost ship, “Flying Dutchman” happens to be very popular and it has inspired hundreds of paintings, books, operas and movies. Are ghost ships only limited to the folklores and Halloween stories? In the world of modern maritime, the term ghost ship has a much more practical meaning.
Ghost ships are vessels floating with no living crew onboard. These abandoned vessels drift in the ocean and appear suddenly at some coast or are spotted midsea giving rise to a series of questions about ownership, crew safety, environmental hazard, security of state, etc. These vessels could have been abandoned under any unknown circumstances. Later these ships become subject to horror stories as these abandoned vessels have many unanswered questions, such as: What happened to the crew? From where did the vessel arrive? and many more attached to them. It is interesting to learn the reasons behind the abandonment of vessels which later turn up as ghost ships.
Making of a ghost ship
The most common and explained reason for ship abandonment in today’s maritime world is the inability of the ship owners to meet the operational expenses of the vessel. When the owners of the ship fail to pay for basic expenses including port fees, crew wages, and bunker expenses they abandon the ship along with the crew. The crew stays on board as abandoning will deprive them of their right to be paid. Due to weak laws of flag states, the jurisdiction becomes lengthy and unclear, pushing the crew to abandon the vessel. It has been noted that vessels are often abandoned in countries having less stringent shipping and immigration laws.
As per the International Maritime Organization data, since 2004, 438 ships worldwide have been abandoned by the ship owners with 5767 crew members being affected directly.
When a ship has lived its life, it has to be towed to the scrapyard for dismantling. Such ships waiting to be towed to the scrapyard sometimes drift away in high seas due to ocean current or rough weather. Due to lack of operational digital identification systems, it becomes nearly impossible to track these ships. These vessels going with the flow are sighted as ghost ships.
Top 5 Ghost ship stories of the modern age
In the year 2020, Beirut, Lebanon suffered a massive explosion taking 200 lives and injuring more than 6000 people. Behind this explosion was ghost ship MV Rhosus.
In 2013 MV RHOSUS was on its way to Mozambique when due to some mechanical emergency it made a port call to Beirut, Lebanon. The vessel was detained by the port state control of Lebanon as they found it unseaworthy. The owners went bankrupt and refused to communicate with the ship. The crew did not abandon the vessel for nearly one year and was finally repatriated home after local court orders were passed. The port authority seized the vessel on 4th Feb 2014 and cargo was shifted to a port warehouse. MV RHOSUS after being abandoned by its Russian owner turned into a ghost ship for 4 years and ultimately sank in February 2018. On 4th August 2020, a fire broke out at the warehouse where the cargo of MV Rhosus was stored and a massive explosion happened, destroying the port of Beirut.
Read more news articles on MV RHOSUS in our Maritime News section.
ELIAS or MV ALTA
In the year 2019, HMS Protector spotted a derelict-looking vessel floating in the mid-Atlantic. The vessel was later identified as ELIAS (former MV ALTA) and its dark past was revealed. The ship had undergone several name changes and was sailing as ELIAS towards Haiti in 2018. The ship’s engine had failed and she raised a distress call. The US coast guard rescued the crew onboard ELIAS and the ship was abandoned. The ship sailed as a ghost ship for nearly a year in the Atlantic before being spotted by HMS Protector . On February 16, 2020, the ghost ship suddenly appeared on the coast of Ireland, Ballyandreen, Cork. Storm Dennis had agrounded the ship where its wreckage still remains. There have been several stories regarding ELIAS’s past but none could be verified as the vessel’s ownership is yet to be determined.
With the help of FleetMon, the radio broadcast Quarks produced a story on ghost ship ELIAS broadcasted by the German radio station WDR (German language only). Listen to the radio broadcast .
A ghost ship anchored for more than a year in the Gulf of Siam, Thailand. This ghost ship was cruise vessel OCEAN DREAM that was abandoned by its owners. Multiple owners had exchanged hands before Runfeng Ocean Deluxe Cruises saved it from the scrapyard. The company operated the vessel since 2012. It was abandoned in the year 2015. OCEAN DREAM remained a ghost vessel before it capsized on February 27, 2016. By the year 2019, the wreckage above water was demolished and cleared from the site.
On October 1, 2017, the locals of Salloum Coast, Egypt found a ghost ship at their sea beach. Later the ship was identified as MV MARIA M but its flag and the owner still remain a mystery. The ghost ship didn’t look derelict as from the appearance of the vessel it can be said that the ship was operational till recent times. The owner and the last trade of the still being a mystery, stories started to make rounds that the ghost ship was involved in immigrant trafficking.
The most interesting of all ghost ships found in recent time is a steel hull fishing vessel discovered by Vietnamese fishermen in La Gi, Vietnam. The vessel identity could not be discovered but several Chinese characters were found on the stern and bow of the ship. It is assumed that the ship was abandoned a few days back before discovery, as the fishermen found the ship with deck lights ON. The ship’s galley was functional at the time of abandoning as cooking utensils were found in use. No personal belongings were found onboard. Under what circumstances the vessel was abandoned, what happened to the crew, who are the owners of the vessel etc. still remain a mystery. The fishermen had towed the vessel to La Gi where it stands anchored 2 miles off the coast.
The most recent incident of ghost ship sighting is from Penghu Islands, Taiwan. A general cargo vessel was found aground on the coast of Penghu Islands, Taiwan. It is suspected that the vessel was being towed away to the scrapyard and she might have broken off her towage. The ghost ships continue to haunt the maritime industry because vessel abandonment by owners adversely affects crew, environment, and safety at sea.
Get Daily Maritime Newsletter
Top 11 Mysterious Ghost Ships and Haunted Stories of the Maritime World
Mystery, fear, and enigma encompass the seafaring ghost ships’ or phantom ships’ tales that have been passed around throughout centuries by sailors, anglers and others.
These mysterious ships are fantasied as spectral phantasms that materialise in the middle of the sea and disappear quickly, apparently a bad omen.
In addition, abandoned ships, which are found adrift, and left desolated under fearsome and cryptic circumstances, are included in this category.
Albeit these all being marine legends and sometimes lacking authenticity, some of these haunted ships continue to provoke speculation and fearful anticipation.
We present you with ten such mysterious ghost ships of the maritime world that would surely give you an eerie feeling and goosebumps.
Top 10 Amazing Ocean Mysteries and Phenomena
Top 10 Amazing Ocean Mysteries and Phenomena – Part 2
Table of Contents
11. SV Kaz II
SV Kaz II was found adrift, 88 miles off the coast of Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef, just five days after it set sail from Airlie beach towards Townsville, Queensland, in April 2007. As per investigation reports, the 12 m catamaran was sailing with a three-person crew who were not experienced, sailors. However, what happened to them remains a mystery to this day.
Their disappearance without a trace has been compared to the crew of Mary Celeste, another ship whose crew went missing under mysterious circumstances. Many believe rough weather conditions could be a reason; others blame pirates or even communists for the same.
Strangely, the vessel was found in perfect condition, except for the one sail, which had been shredded to pieces. The three men were never discovered. According to investigators, they might have drowned while trying to untangle a fishing lure caught in the vessel’s rudder. It is also envisaged that a sea monster could have swallowed them.
10. The Caleuche
It is a legend of the Chilota mythology, where it is described as a ghost ship which comes into being every night near the island of Chiloe. It says the vessel carries the spirits of all the people who have drowned at sea.
The Caleuche is strikingly beautiful, bright and gay, always surrounded by party music sounds and laughter.
However, it only stays for a few moments and then suddenly disappears or submerges itself under the water. Three Chilota’ water spirits’ – the Sirena Chilota, the Pincoya, and the Picoy – who resemble mermaids, summons the spirits of the drowned.
9. The SS Valencia
In 1906, the SS Valencia sank off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, after encountering bad weather near Cape Mendocino and became a subject of mysterious ghost stories.
Eventually, 37 of merely 108 people were saved using lifeboats , among which one disappeared.
Since then, many fishermen have claimed to witness ghost ship sightings with human skeletons even after many decades post sinking.
The Mystery of the Mary Celeste Ghost Ship
- Unexplained Mystery: The Devil’s Sea (The Dragon’s Triangle)
8. The SS Ourang Medan
In 1947, while passing through the Strait of Malacca, two American ships went off on a rescue mission after receiving a distress call from Ourang Medan.
The caller claimed to be a crewmember and conveyed the message of the death of everyone else on board. His words weirdly ended with “I die”. The rescuers found the ship unharmed, but the entire crew, including the dog, dead with terrified faces and expressions.
Before the further investigation, the abandoned ship caught fire and exploded. The probable reason could be over-exposure to nitroglycerin, which it was carrying illegally. The other mystery revolves around the story of paranormal activities and alien invasion.
7. The Carroll A. Deering
This ship ran aground in the notorious Diamond Shoals near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, in 1921, where it was stuck for several days before any rescue team could arrive. After unloading a coal shipment, the vessel was travelling from Rio de Janeiro back to Norfolk, Virginia.
Later, the Coast Guard found that the navigational equipment, logbook and two lifeboats were missing from the abandoned ship, otherwise undamaged.
Investigation showed that a few other ships had also disappeared under mysterious circumstances around the same time, which could be the pirates’ barbarity, crew mutiny, or extraterrestrial activity around the infamous Bermuda triangle.
6. The SS Baychimo
Built in the early 1920s, this is one of the real-life ghost ships which was, in 1931, trapped in the pack-ice near Alaska, leaving no hopes for the owner Hudson Bay Company but to abandon it.
However, it remained adrift for the next 38 years and was frequently sighted floating aimlessly in the waters off Alaska.
Weather conditions had always made it impossible to salvage, but since 1969, it has disappeared completely. A few expedition programmes had since been launched to trace back this mysterious ghost ship.
5 Famous Mysterious Stories of the Bermuda Triangle
Top 10 Amazing Facts About the Lost City of Atlantis
5. The Octavius
The Octavius became more than just a legend in 1775 when a whaling ship named the Herald found it aimlessly drifting off the coast of Greenland with all of its crew frozen dead by the arctic cold.
To add to the spooky environment, the ship’s captain was found sitting at his desk, with a logbook in front of him, and finishing a log entry from 1762.
This could mean that the Octavius had been floating for 13 years and completed its passage to the Atlantic while returning to England from the Orient via the Northwest Passage as a ghost ship.
4. The MV Joyita
In 1955 this fishing and charter boat was found abandoned in the South Pacific, five weeks after it had been reported overdue. The air-search mission could not trace it until a merchant ship found it drifting almost 600 miles off its source with no sign of passengers, crew members and cargo. The liferafts were missing, including the firearms and other equipment onboard.
There was a doctor’s bag and several bloody bandages on the deck, and the broken radio was tuned to the universal distress signal . Still, what happened there was never revealed as none of the crew was ever seen again.
3. The Lady Lovibond
An exciting story of love, jealousy and rage complements the tale of this haunted ship. In 1748, the day before Valentine’s Day, it was set to sail as a celebration of the ship’s captain’s wedding.
Nevertheless, his friend, who was too in love with her, out of vengeance, steered the ship into the notorious Goodwind Sands, sinking it and killing all on board.
Since then, it could be seen every fifty years sailing around Kent. 1798, 1848, 1898 and 1948 witnessed this ship’s sightseeing, and some boats had sent out rescuers, assuming it was in distress, but later could not be found. Albeit there was no confirmed spotting in 1998, this famous ghost ship continues to be a legend.
2. The Mary Celeste
British Ship Dei Gratia found the Mary Celeste on 4th Dec 1872, near the Strait of Gibraltar. It was weird as the latter had left New York eight days before the Dei Gratia and should have reached its destination, Genoa, Italy, by now. However, the boarding party from the British vessel discovered that below deck, things looked pretty standard with no signs of any attack.
Probably the most famous real-life ghost ship’s story embraces the Mary Celeste, found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 in a completely unharmed condition with all its sails still up, the crew’s personal belongings intact and a cargo hold of over 1500 alcohol barrels untouched.
The only things missing were the lifeboat, the captain’s logbook and most importantly, the whole crew. Since pirate attacks could not be held responsible for such a phenomenon, theories of crew mutiny, waterspout killing, and consumption of poisonous food leading to madness came into being.
However, the most reasonable explanation could be a storm or technical issue, compelling the crew to immediately abandon the ship in the lifeboat and die later at sea. Apart from these, the mystery of this haunted ship surrounds by ghosts and even sea monsters and alien abduction theories.
Captain Morehouse of Dei Gratia knew Captain Briggs of Celeste to be a capable sailor, leading to more suspicions about what actually happened. However, the poor fate of Mary Celeste and its souls has been immortalised in Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story written in 1884, J Habakuk’s Jephson’s Statement.
1. The Flying Dutchman
In maritime folklore, this ghost ship has left the maximum impact like no other by inspiring numerous paintings, films, books, operas, etc. The Pirates of the Caribbean, the Dead Man’s Chest features the story and is the most popular movie made on this legend.
Van der Decken, the captain, on its way towards East Indies, with sheer determination, tried to steer his ship through the adverse weather condition of the Cape of Good Hope but failed miserably even after vowing to drift until the doomsday. Legend says that since then, they have been cursed to sail the oceans for eternity.
To this day, hundreds of fisherman and sailors from the deep sea have claimed to have witnessed the Flying Dutchman continuing its never-ending voyage across the waters.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ghost Ships
1. what is the meaning of the term ‘ghost ship’.
Ghost ships are those sea-going vessels that are associated with some supernatural activity or unexplained powers. Those vessels that have been abandoned by crew and passengers, or have drifted away from their docks or while at sea, are also called ghost ships. Ships still in operation, might also be reffered to as ghost ships, as stories of paranormal activities or eerie experiences spread through the crew and passengers of the vessel.
2. Which ghost ships are currently sailing on the oceans’ unmanned’?
There are many examples of ghost ships sailing without a soul. One such vessel is the MV Lyubov Orlova, an erstwhile Russian cruise ship carrying tourists around the Arctic. Today, its guests are only rats. The vessel was found adrift near the coast of Ireland and will be dismantled soon.
3. When was the last Ghost Ship found?
The last ghost ship was found in 2018 on the coast of Ireland during the Dennis Storm. The MV Alta ran aground close to Ballycotton, County Cork. It was found adrift and unmanned in the Atlantic by the HMS Protector after it became disabled, and the US Coast Guard rescued its crew.
4. What causes the mirage of ghost ships?
Our brain interprets that light travels in a straight line. However, other factors at sea, including refraction, temperature, climate and light waves, creates a mirage of a ship floating above the horizon. Sometimes it may look distorted and above the water surface. The actual ship might be below the horizon or on the other side.
5. How many abandoned ships are in the ocean?
In 2020, the IMO Database mentioned about 438 ships abandoned worldwide. It also listed 5767 crews abandoned since 2004. However, since not all missing cases are brought to the IMO, the number of missing and abandoned vessels is much bigger.
- The Mystery of Ghost Ships – HMS Erebus and HMS Terror
- The Unexplained Mystery of the Sea Serpent
- The Baltic Sea Mystery of the Strange UFO Object
- The Real Story Behind The “Davy Jones’ Locker”
- What are Sea Shanties?
Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used in the article, have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.
The article or images cannot be reproduced, copied, shared or used in any form without the permission of the author and Marine Insight.
blogspot, buy lovely, angels ghosts, top apps, scary for kids, PhotoBucket, hauntedamericatours
Do you have info to share with us ? Suggest a correction
Get the Latest Maritime News Delivered to Your Inbox!
Our free, fast, and fun newsletter on the global maritime industry, delivered everyday.
10 Things The World Should Learn From Seafarers
Worst Oil Spills: The ABT Summer Oil Spill Incident
23 Points Guide For Merchant Ships To Rescue Migrants At Sea
My First Journey Through The Panama Canal – 4th Engineer Describes His Experience
7 Cool LEGO® Ship Sets Everyone Must Have
10 Occasions When Seafarers Are Happy On Board Ship
Don’t forget about the Queen Mary. You can read about her haunted past in Fatal Return Roger Weston- author of Fatal Return
Your forgetting one more? “The queen mary*
Thanks for providing this amazing article. I loved to read blog on historical places and ghosts.Keep doing good work.
I just love to read and experience the ghost stories and this blog is very well written and it is interesting too, never felt a bit boring on your article, looking forward to read more articles from you
hi darling…… kasaak story
The Lady Lovibond…. dont forget the Lady Lovibond story.. wt a story mind blocking…. fasakkkk…
Wow that’s amazing so many ghost ships
Thanks for those informations !
What about the queen mary?
good information about hunted stories.
Leave a Reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Subscribe to Marine Insight Daily Newsletter
" * " indicates required fields
What Are Ghost Ships? The Mysterious Phenomenon of Abandoned Vessels
Ghost ships have long captured the imagination of people. These are vessels that are found adrift or abandoned at sea with no crew on board.
Ghost ships can be traced back to the early days of seafaring, and their mysterious nature has led to many stories and legends surrounding them.
The history of ghost ships is a long and varied one, with accounts of abandoned vessels dating back centuries.
Despite the supernatural connotations of ghost ships, they have had a significant impact on the maritime industry.
The discovery of abandoned vessels can lead to investigations into safety and security practices, and the recovery of valuable cargo from these ships can be a lucrative business.
In this article, we will explore the history and legends of ghost ships, as well as the impact they have had on the maritime industry.
Table of Contents
- Ghost ships are vessels found adrift or abandoned at sea with no crew on board.
- The history of ghost ships dates back centuries, and some of the most famous include the Mary Celeste and the Flying Dutchman.
- Ghost ships have had a significant impact on the maritime industry, leading to investigations into safety and security practices and the recovery of valuable cargo.
History of Ghost Ships
Ghost ships have been a part of folklore for centuries, and stories of these eerie vessels have been passed down through generations.
These ships are often believed to be cursed, abandoned, or lost at sea, and sightings of them have been reported throughout history.
In this section, we will explore the early folklore surrounding ghost ships and some of the more modern sightings that have occurred.
The earliest stories of ghost ships date back to ancient times, with tales of cursed vessels and haunted seas appearing in Greek and Roman mythology .
In Norse mythology, the ship Naglfar was said to be made entirely of the nails of the dead, and would sail to the final battle of Ragnarok.
In the Middle Ages, ghost ships were often associated with the Wild Hunt, a spectral procession of hunters and hounds that was said to portend death and disaster.
One of the most famous ghost ships in history is the Mary Celeste, a brigantine that was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 with no crew on board. The ship was fully provisioned and in good condition, but the crew had vanished without a trace.
The mystery of what happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste has never been solved, and the ship has become a popular subject of ghost stories and legends.
In more recent times, there have been several sightings of ghost ships that have captured the public’s imagination.
The SS Valencia, a passenger steamer that sank off the coast of Vancouver Island in 1906, is said to haunt the waters to this day.
The Carroll A. Deering, a five-masted schooner that was found abandoned off the coast of North Carolina in 1921, is another famous ghost ship that has never been fully explained.
Other modern sightings of ghost ships include the SS Baychimo, a cargo steamer that was abandoned in the Arctic Ocean in 1931 and was last seen in 1969, still adrift and intact.
The Lady Lovibond, a British schooner that sank off the coast of Kent in 1748, is said to reappear every 50 years, while the Eliza Battle, a steamboat that caught fire and sank in the Tombigbee River in Alabama in 1858, is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the passengers who died in the disaster.
More recent sightings of ghost ships include the Ryou-Un Maru, a Japanese fishing vessel that was swept away by the 2011 tsunami and was last seen adrift in the Pacific Ocean , and the SV Kaz II, a catamaran that was found drifting off the coast of Australia in 2007 with all three crew members missing.
The Teignmouth Electron, a trimaran that was found abandoned in the Atlantic Ocean in 1969, is another famous ghost ship that has never been fully explained.
Famous Ghost Ships
Throughout history, there have been many tales of ghost ships that have captured the imagination of people around the world. Here are some of the most famous ghost ships:
The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman is perhaps the most famous ghost ship of all time. Legend has it that the ship was cursed to sail the seas forever , never able to make port.
The story of the Flying Dutchman has been passed down for centuries and has inspired countless works of art and literature.
The Mary Celeste
The Mary Celeste is another famous ghost ship. In 1872, the ship was discovered adrift in the Atlantic Ocean with no crew on board.
The ship’s cargo was still intact, and there were no signs of a struggle. The fate of the Mary Celeste’s crew remains a mystery to this day.
The Octavius was a British trading vessel that was lost at sea in the late 1700s. The ship was discovered in 1775, almost 13 years after it had disappeared, by a whaling ship. The crew of the Octavius was found frozen solid, still sitting at their posts.
The MV Joyita was a small passenger and cargo ship that went missing in the South Pacific in 1955. The ship was found five weeks later, adrift and empty. The fate of the passengers and crew of the MV Joyita remains a mystery.
The Kaz II was a catamaran that was found drifting off the coast of Australia in 2007. The ship’s engine was still running, and its sails were up, but there was no sign of the crew. The fate of the crew of the Kaz II remains unknown.
These are just a few examples of the many ghost ships that have captured the imagination of people around the world.
While the stories behind these ships are often shrouded in mystery, they continue to fascinate and intrigue people to this day.
Causes of Abandonment
Ghost ships are often abandoned vessels found adrift on the high seas with no crew or passengers on board. There are several reasons why a ship may be abandoned, including natural disasters, piracy, and technical failure.
Natural disasters such as hurricanes, typhoons, and tsunamis can cause a ship to sink or run aground. In these situations, the crew may have no choice but to abandon ship and try to survive on life rafts .
In some cases, the ship may be so badly damaged that it sinks quickly, leaving no time for the crew to issue a distress signal.
Piracy is another common cause of ship abandonment. Pirates may board a ship, take control of it, and force the crew to abandon ship.
In some cases, the pirates may steal valuable cargo and equipment before leaving the ship to drift aimlessly.
Technical failure is another reason why ships may be abandoned. Navigational equipment may fail, causing the ship to drift off course and become lost at sea.
In other cases, the ship’s engines may fail, leaving it adrift and unable to move. In extreme cases, a fire may break out on board, forcing the crew to abandon ship.
When a ship is abandoned, a rescue team may be dispatched to locate and retrieve the vessel. However, in some cases, the ship may continue to drift for weeks or even months before being discovered.
Firearms may be left on board, posing a danger to other vessels that may come into contact with the drifting boat.
Ghost Ships and Supernatural
Ghost ships have been a source of fascination and fear for centuries. These vessels appear to be abandoned, yet they continue to sail on their own, often with no crew or passengers on board.
Some believe that these ghost ships are the result of paranormal or supernatural activity, while others attribute their existence to more mundane causes.
Many people believe that ghost ships are the result of paranormal activities. Some claim that these vessels are haunted by the spirits of their former crew and passengers, while others believe that they are the work of malevolent supernatural forces.
There are numerous reports of strange and unexplained phenomena associated with ghost ships, including ghostly apparitions, disembodied voices, and strange sounds.
There are many stories of haunted ships, some of which have become legendary. One of the most famous is the story of the Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship that has been sighted numerous times over the centuries.
According to legend, the Flying Dutchman is doomed to sail the seas forever, unable to make port.
Another famous ghost ship is the Mary Celeste, which was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 with no crew on board. The Mary Celeste has been the subject of numerous books and movies, and its mysterious disappearance has never been fully explained.
While many ghost ships are the stuff of legend, there have been numerous reports of real-life sightings of these vessels. Some believe that these sightings are the result of optical illusions or natural phenomena, while others maintain that they are evidence of the supernatural.
Impact on Maritime Industry
Ghost ships have a significant impact on the maritime industry. The presence of these abandoned vessels poses safety risks and legal implications.
This section will explore the impact of ghost ships on the maritime industry, including safety measures and legal implications.
The presence of ghost ships in the ocean poses a significant safety risk to other vessels. These abandoned vessels can cause collisions, and their presence can be dangerous to other ships.
The lack of maintenance and upkeep on these vessels can lead to structural damage, which can cause them to sink or break apart, creating a significant hazard for other vessels in the area.
To mitigate these risks, the maritime industry has implemented several safety measures. For example, lifeboats and other safety equipment are required on all vessels to ensure the safety of the crew and passengers in case of an emergency.
Additionally, the industry has implemented strict regulations regarding the decommissioning and disposal of vessels to prevent them from becoming ghost ships.
The presence of ghost ships can also have legal implications. When a vessel is abandoned, it becomes a derelict vessel, which can lead to legal issues for the owner and the maritime industry.
For example, if a ghost ship is found to be leaking oil or other hazardous materials, the owner may be held liable for any environmental damage caused by the vessel.
Furthermore, the presence of ghost ships can also impact the cruise industry. Passengers on cruise ships may be concerned about the potential danger posed by these abandoned vessels, which can lead to a decrease in bookings and revenue for the industry.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the history behind ghost ships.
Ghost ships have been a part of maritime history for centuries. These vessels are usually abandoned or lost at sea, and their crews are missing or dead.
Many ghost ships have been discovered with no apparent signs of foul play, leading to speculation about how they became abandoned.
What are some famous ghost ships?
Some of the most famous ghost ships include the Mary Celeste, the Flying Dutchman, and the Baychimo.
These vessels have been the subject of numerous books, movies, and TV shows, and have captured the imagination of people around the world.
How do ships become abandoned and turn into ghost ships?
Ships can become abandoned for a variety of reasons, including weather conditions , mechanical failure, human error, and piracy. When a ship is abandoned, it can drift for years, becoming a ghost ship as it slowly deteriorates.
Are ghost ships dangerous to people who come across them?
While ghost ships may seem eerie and mysterious, they are not typically dangerous to people who come across them.
In fact, many ghost ships are discovered by other ships or planes, and are often towed to shore or salvaged for scrap.
What is the significance of ghost ships in popular culture?
Ghost ships have been a popular subject in literature, film, and other forms of media for many years. They are often used as symbols of mystery and danger, and are a common theme in horror stories and other works of fiction.
How many ghost ships are estimated to be in the world’s oceans?
It is difficult to estimate the number of ghost ships in the world’s oceans, as many of them may never be discovered or reported. However, it is believed that there are thousands of ghost ships scattered throughout the world’s waterways, waiting to be found and explored.
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
- Biggest King Crab Ever Recorded
- Types of Sharks in the Caribbean
- The Difference Between Krill and Shrimp
- The Difference Between Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans
- Sharks in Connecticut
- Sharks in Barbados
About American Oceans
The American Oceans Campaign is dedicated primarily to the restoration, protection, and preservation of the health and vitality of coastal waters, estuaries, bays, wetlands, and oceans. Have a question? Contact us today.
Explore Marine Life
- Marine Mammals
- Sea Turtles & Reptiles
- Sharks & Rays
- Shellfish & Crustaceans
- Ocean Facts
- View history
The Ghost Ship is a type of Enemy from the Sea of the Damned brought forth into the world by a powerful summoner such as Flameheart or Davy Jones . These ships usually appear in large fleets headed by Ghost Captain Ships. Ghost Ships can be encountered during Ghost Ship Voyages , Ghost Fleet World Events , the Legend of the Veil voyage, certain time-limited Adventures , or the Lords of the Sea Tall Tale.
- 1 Encounter
- 3 Types of Ghost Ships
Encounter [ ]
The Ashen Dragon makes an appearance during the Ghost Fleet .
Ghost Ships can appear as a part of three encounters:
- Ghost Ship Voyages sold by Order of Souls Representatives at Outposts send players to take on Ghost Fleets headed by Ghost Captain Ships.
- The Legend of the Veil voyage sold by the Pirate Lord in the Athena's Fortune Hideout , which sends players to siege a Ghost Garrison guarded by several Ghost Ships.
- During the Lords of the Sea Tall Tale, which spawns Ghost Brethren Ships and Ghost Brethren Captain Ships.
- The Shrouded Deep , where Flameheart summons his Ghost Fleet to prevent pirates from retrieving the Veil from the Shrouded Ghost .
- A Hunter's Cry , where the Dark Brethren have Ghost Ships protecting The Damned Sea Dog Tavern .
- And the Ghost Fleet World Event, as part of a Ghost Armada led by the Burning Blade , and Ashen Dragon Ships.
28 June 2021
04 June 2020
27 March 2018
Mechanics [ ]
Ghost Ship leaves behind Ghost Mines when in front of Player Ships.
- Ghost Ships are not damaged by collisions of any kind (whether it be a ship or an island), nor does it take damage from Gunpowder Barrels .
- Ghost Ships cannot be damaged during transit through a portal.
- Ghost Ships can and will fire upon Skeleton Ships .
- Ghost Ships starts releasing ghostly particles when badly damaged and their hulls will show gaping holes.
Types of Ghost Ships [ ]
There are many variants of Ghost Ship, all of which are destroyed only by projectiles via Cannon hits.
1. Grunt Ship (3 Cannonball hits)
2. Ghost Flagship (10 Cannonball hits)
3. Ghost Captain Ship (24 Cannonball hits)
4. Ghostly Ashen Dragon Ship (10 Cannonball hits)
5. The Burning Blade (24 Cannonball hits)
6. Ghost Brethren Ship (3 Cannonball hits)
7. Ghost Brethren Captain Ship (10 Cannonball hits)
8. Haunted Fort Ghost Ship (3 Cannonball hits)
Rewards [ ]
Any Treasure dropped by Ghost Ships will be circled with Wraiths.
A Ghost Ship mainly drops Ghostly Treasure items that are marked by swirling phantoms above the water.
- Grunt Ship occasionally drops Storage Crates of the Damned with Wooden Planks , Fruit , and Cannonballs inside.
- Ghost Flagship drops 2-4 Skulls of the Damned and a Storage Crate of the Damned .
- Ghost Captain Ship drops 4-5 Skulls of the Damned and a single Captain Skull of the Damned .
- Ashen Dragon Ship generally drops around 7-9 of the following items: Skulls of the Damned , Ashes of the Damned , Chests of the Damned & 1 Storage Crate of the Damned .
- The Burning Blade drops around 15 of the following items: Skulls of the Damned , Ashes of the Damned , Chests of the Damned ; 1 Captain Skull of the Damned and 1 Cannonball Crate of the Damned , which contains Ghostly Cannonballs .
- Both Ghost Brethren Ships and Ghost Brethren Captain Ships occasionally have a chance to drop a Crate of the Dark Brethren , which function identically to the storage crates dropped by the Grunt Ships of normal Ghost Ship Encounters, but these crates are sold for less gold.
- Ghost Ships first made their appearance in Tall Tales , being a part of both The Seabound Soul and Heart of Fire as prop NPCs.
- Certain passive Reaper Ghost Ships made an appearance around Shipwreck Bay as part of Shrouded Islands , and again at Sea Forts during Forts of the Forgotten .
- 1 Commendations
31 Oct 2018
Delve into several hair-raising tales from our collection
by Victoria Syrett, Archives Assistant
Ghost ships, sometimes also called phantom ships, are vessels with no living crew aboard. These may be real derelict ships found adrift with their crew missing, such as the 19th century HMS Resolute, or fictional and folkloric ones, like the apocryphal Octavius.
Below you can read two extracted from one of our books in the library, “ The Phantom Ship ” by R. L. Hadfield, published in 1937 (RMG ID: PBB4629). Hopefully that will leave you with icy fingers crawling up your spine.
The legend of the Octavius
On August 1775 at midnight with the winds howling past snow peaked ice bergs, the Octavius aimlessly drifting off the coast of Greenland within two miles of the whaleship the Herald. Come afternoon the next day, after a violent storm that broke apart the ice, Captain Warrens of the Herald spotted the Octavius and in his excitement climbed on board. He first came to a cabin and with a tremor running through him, found a man sitting at a desk with green damp mould touching the man’s cheek and forehead, a pen in his hand and a log book before him. The last words on the unfinished page read:
“11 th November 1762; we have now been enclosed in the ice seventy days. The fire went out yesterday, and our master has been trying ever since to kindle it again without success. His wife died yesterday. There is not relief…”
The next cabin held the body of a young woman in the bed and a man on the floor with flint and steel in his hands as if he was still trying to light the fire. The rest of the crew were found frozen in the beds and a small dog crouched at the bottom of the gang-way stairs.
The Cursed Squando
Back in 1890, the Norwegian ship, Squando , docked itself off the Embarcadero in San Francisco. It was said the Captain and first mate got on well, right up to the point when the Captain’s wife came on board. No one knows exactly what happened between these three but sadly this was to be the first mates last voyage. In a violent hatred, the Captain and his wife not only murdered the man but hacked off his head. The murderous couple then tossed the headless corpse into the San Francisco Bay and kept the head in a locker under the Captain’s bunk. Soon after, the headless corpse of the first mate was discovered in the San Francisco Bay and the Captain and his wife were captured and executed.
The story of the ship doesn’t finish there. The owners of the ship found a new captain and crew, however within a month, four crew members mutinied and killed their captain. The next two captains met with similar fates, one dying from poison from a cut on his hand the other during a violent squall at night.
By 1893, the entire crew, fed up with the cursed nature of the ship, deserted it in Bathurst, New Brunswick. The ship's reputation as a haunted and cursed vessel made it impossible for the owners to hire a new crew, and even unable to keep the night watchmen.
It’s easy to scoff at ghost stories during the day but when the wind picks up howling through the deserted creaking ship, through the loose rigging, the groans of the deck and the shifting shadows, it is another matter entirely. One night watchman made his quarters in the captain’s cabin but upon lighting the lantern felt something firmly grip his sleeve. He glanced down and saw a hand, covered in blood. In gripping fear he traced the arm to its body halting at the dripping neck where the head should have been. A noise caused the watchman to slowly turn to the locker under the bunk as it opened and a round gory head rolled out to his feet. The watchman snatched up the lantern and rushed out the door spending the rest of the night on the deck. The story was the same for the next six night watchmen, all hired and quitting over the next few weeks. The ship owners eventually dismantled the ship selling off the material.
However, the cursed ship Squando wouldn't relent. Now, occasionally on fog shrouded nights, you can still make out the ghostly outline of the ship sailing off the Embarcadero along the San Francisco coastline.
- Become a member