Fathom World

Mapping the transformation of shipping and the oceans

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10 modern day Mary Celestes

Paranormal activity, alien invasions, mythical creatures down under, there are many theories for missing crew and abandoned ships. The 1872 Mary Celeste is a well-known example, but there are many other vessels that have been found in similar states.

If you’re after some light summer reading then check out this list of 10 haunting ghost ships.

Carroll A. Deering  

This cargo ship was found run aground off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, in 1921 with no crew onboard. However, the crew’s belongings were still onboard and the lifeboats were gone.  There was also a meal that was in preparation but the only sign of life left on the ship was a few cats.

In January 1921, another ship, the SS Hewitt, also disappeared from the same area on a similar course, with no explanation as to what happened.

Image courtesy of Wales Online.

Duke of Lancaster 

The Duke of Lancaster was a passenger ship around the UK until it was beached in 1979 near Mostyn, north Wales.  It was to be turned into a floating leisure and retail centre called The Fun Ship but this never took action and remains on the welsh coast, slowly falling apart.

There are plans now to turn it into an open air art gallery and it is undergoing a slow transformation with Latvian artist, Kiwie, commissioned to spray paint the ship.


Image courtesy of the Duke of Lancaster.net.

High Aim 6

In 2003 the Taiwanese vessel was found floating in Australian waters. No crew, but plenty of fuel and personal belongings were present. No signs of a struggle were found but the real mystery was how 10 days after the ship was found, calls were still being made from Indonesia on a mobile phone that belonged to the ship’s missing engineer.  A single crew member was tracked down and claimed that the captain and engineer were murdered and the crew headed back to their homes, but no reason or further explanation was offered.

Jian Seng 

Jian Seng was spotted drifting into unchartered waters near Queensland in 2006, but searches revealed no evidence of recent human activity. What was stranger was that the ship had had its name painted over to hide its identity and there was nothing onboard except for a large quantity of rice. No owner was ever found so the ship was intentionally sunk.


Image courtesy of Juniper Films.

In 1955 fishing and charter boat vessel, the Joyita, mysteriously disappeared in the South Pacific. It was later found drifting 600 miles from its original source, with no sign of crew or cargo anywhere.

Blood drenched bandages and a bag belonging to a doctor was found.  The radio was set to the distress signal, but was found to be faulty. To this day no one knows what happened as no crew members were ever found.

Some have speculated that a pipe corroded, allowing water into the bilges. These bilges were not fitted with strainers and had become clogged with debris, preventing water from escaping.

David Wright, an English lecturer at Auckland University, has a theory.  He believes that the ship’s captain thought a distress message had been sent, when it hadn’t, and encouraged the crew to climb onboard tiny life rafts that eventually led to them downing or being killed by sharks.

Kaz II 

In April 2007, the Kaz II yacht was found off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, drifting without any sign of its three man crew. The vessel was in good condition with the engine running and had food laid out and a laptop turned on. The GPS was fully functional, and all life jackets were onboard. One of the boat’s sails had been shredded but this was the only odd sign.

One theory was that as the fenders were down, the boat could have been subject to foul play, or that the three men had taken a swim and not been able to get back onboard.  There were other theories speculating what happened, but the mystery has never been solved.

Image courtesy of The Vintage News video.

Lyubov Orlova

Cruise vessel, Lyubov Orlova, took passengers around the Arctic and Antarctica until 2010 when it was held at St. John’s Port, Newfoundland, because it has run up debts up to $251,000.

Two years later it was still at the same port. However, on its way to the Dominican Republic to be scrapped, the vessel’s tow lines broke and the ship was set free. It was captured by a Transport Canada tug boat and dragged away to international waters where it was set free.  It floated around and was last seen near the coast of both Iceland and Ireland in 2013.


The Cruiser Murmansk served from 1955 to 1989 until it was sold to India for scrapping. The ship ran aground near the Norwegian coast during the move and was left as a derelict building until 2009 when demolition began. Dismantling was completed in 2013.

There have been various concerns raised over its environmental impact as it was left for so long and the possibility that there may still be impacts from the radioactive materials onboard the vessel.

Images courtesy of Armas Historicas.
Image courtesy of Beyond Science.

The Ourang Medan 

In 1947 the Ourang Medan sent out a distress call from the Strait of Malacca, with the caller strangely ending with the words “I die”.  When the ship was found, it was in perfect condition, but everyone onboard was dead.  What was stranger was that they all had terrified expressions on their faces, leaving some to believe in paranormal activity or alien invasion.

What most likely happened was a fire and explosion as the ship was carrying nitroglycerin, illegally.

World Discoverer  

The cruise ship, World Discoverer, was on a voyage around the South Pacific when on April 30, 2000, it developed a 20-degree list through the Solomon Islands’ Sandfly Passage.

The ship was evacuated and all passengers were saved while the Captain steered it into Roderick Bay.  Today, the ship sits where it was lost and can be viewed clearly in Google Maps. It serves as a tourist attraction to other passing cruise liners.



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