Floating Enigmas

Adrift at Sea, Ghost Ship
Carries Crew of Cannibal Rats

Most eerie accounts of ships lost or found abandoned, without a shadow of life aboard, fuel nightmares and horror tales. Take the Mary Celeste, for instance, whose missing crew left all possessions and jumped out of her in a hurry, on a clear night in 1872.
The Lyubov Orlova cruiser, though, belongs to another category of fright: the life left behind is not human but feral. Rodents with sharp teeth run around breeding and eating each other. As they carry on their blood bath, the ship drifts towards the North Atlantic.
The Russian-made vessel is only the latest to be cast adrift, but unlike memorable cases in the past, the fate of her last crew is well known: unpaid by the owners, they all left her at a Canadian harbor, where she remained until she broke lose during a storm.
Penniless and prosaic, or lucky as some would put it, the fate of the Lyubov Orlova crew diverges from accounts of many a ghost ship, found empty, or lost forever and possibly sunk. At least they lived to hopefully find new employment, or another line of business.
Those who manned other legendary ships, however, were never to be seen again. Besides the Mary Celeste, there’s the Caroll A. Derring, with its 1921 swashbuckling tale of pirates and the Bermuda Triangle, and the Zebrina, found empty in 1917, with likely hints that the war had come on board.
But just before we lose perspective, the worst possible nightmarish scenarios notwithstanding, nothing at sea can be more terrifying than a shipwreck, both for its potential for unredeeming loss and ability to strike fear into the hearts of sailing souls. Neither has any ship disappeared with a large crew so far. Knock on wood.
And no nautical tragedy encapsulates a higher confluence of fears associated with high seas than the wreck of the Essex in 1820, with its horrific tale of a giant whale hitting it twice, and survivors resorting to cannibalism. The episode inspired at least one masterpiece, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, published 30 years later.

Giving its primordial existence, though, the vastness of the bodies of water that interconnect and divide our receding lands do instil an inordinate amount of irrational fears and spikes in our fright bones, in diametrically ways that terra firma represents hope and redemption when it’s finally within reach.
Thalassophobia is, in fact, one of the arguably most primeval fears for humans, more intense than even the fear of heights. For our inadequate bodies, not made to soar above the clouds or breathe underwater, can still better avoid the former, whereas to drown, one Continue reading

Lost at Sea

The Tsunami Fishing Boat
& Other Ghost Ship Stories

When a 50-foot long Japanese fishing boat was spotted last week, some 150 miles off the coast of British Columbia, there was little doubt that it’s been adrift since the powerful earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan a year ago. As no one is believed to be aboard, many also thought about the countless ghost ship tales that’s part of the ocean lore since ancient times.
There’s probably not much mystery about this vessel and others before it, abandoned by their crew following some catastrophic event in the middle of nowhere. Yet there are a few whose inexplicable fate is as enduring and deep as the sea is vast and unpredictable. And unlike this particularly rusty boat, they do have names and records that only add to their allure.
There’s something about the Mary Celeste, the Carroll A. Deering, and the Zebrina, to name a few, that still defies a completely logical explanation, as they all may share elements of foul-play, illegal activity, mutiny, some unexpected fact or a combined variation of any of such possible causes, none enough to determine for sure what actually happened onboard.
Then again, as any crusty sea captain or battle-scared sailor would tell you, once one’s heading out to the vastness, most assumptions about logic and predicament should be left ashore, anyway. Even Continue reading