Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Logan. Logan Wonders, “What was the Ourang Medan?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Logan!

Have you ever seen a ghost? Or do you even believe in them? Ghosts are a fun topic to debate with friends, especially during the Halloween season. And many people claim to have seen ghosts. Their stories have kept people entertained (and spooked!) for many years.

However, the word “ghost” doesn’t always mean a floating spirit in a bedsheet. Sometimes, people talk about ghost towns, which are abandoned towns that people no longer live in. You may have also heard of ghost peppers. But have you ever heard of ghost ships? 

Are ghost ships phantoms of long-gone vessels that haunt the seven seas? Well, not exactly. A ghost ship is a lot more like a ghost town. A ghost ship is one that’s found without a crew or passengers. While most ghost ships set sail with people on them, they’re later seen sailing along uninhabited.

How is that possible? Wouldn’t a ship with no crew sink pretty quickly? You might think so, but that’s not always the case. Throughout history, sightings of ghost ships have come many months or even years after their crews left them. 

One example is the SS Baychimo. This steamer was abandoned after being caught in ice in 1931. However, the ship later broke free on its own and was regularly seen floating in Alaska during the 1930s. The last sighting of the SS Baychimo was in 1969. It had lasted 38 years without a crew.

Some ghost ships are even more mysterious. One of the most famous ghost ship mysteries is that of the Mary Celeste. This ship was found in the Atlantic. Its passengers—the captain, his family, and seven crew members—were missing. The Mary Celeste was still well-stocked with food and supplies. It had taken on some water but was still seaworthy. To this day, the passengers’ fate is a mystery. 

Some ghost ships don’t even start out with passengers. During the 2001 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Ryuo-Un Maru floated away. It was thought lost until a year later, when it was found, unmanned, floating near Alaska.

But perhaps the most mysterious ghost ship of all is the infamous Ourang Medan.  In 1947, a chilling distress call drew the ship Silver Star to the Ourang Medan. When Silver Star crew members boarded the other ship, they found that all its crew members had passed away.

What happened to the crew of the Ourang Medan? It’s a mystery to this day. Some say the supernatural was involved. Others believe they were the victims of pirates. Another popular theory is they suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

Whatever the truth, it now lies at the bottom of the sea. Shortly after it was found, the Ourang Medan exploded. The crew of the Silver Star barely escaped in time. Later, many of them said the blast was so large that it lifted the Ourang Medan into the air before it sank.

We might never know what really happened on the Ourang Medan—or many other ghost ships. But that doesn’t stop anyone from trying to find out! Unexplained ghost ships like the Ourang Medan keep many watching the horizon, waiting for the ocean’s next mystery to reach the shore.

Standards: Content CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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