We’ve all come across stories of ghost ships and death ships: The Flying Dutchman, Mary Celeste, and so on… However, (in my opinion) none really compare to the nature of the story I’m about to tell you. That is, the legend of the S.S. Ourang Medan.
According to widely circulated reports, in June of 1947 — or, according to alternate accounts, February of 1948 — multiple ships traversing the trade routes of the straits of Malacca, which is located on the sun-drenched shores of Sumatra and Malaysia, claimed to have picked up a series of SOS distress signals.
The unknown ship’s message was as simple as it was disturbing:
All officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.”  This communication was followed by a burst of indecipherable Morse code, then a final, grim message: “I die.” This cryptic proclamation was followed by tomb-like silence.
The chilling distress call was picked up by two American ships as well as British and Dutch listening posts. The men manning these posts managed to triangulate the source of these broadcasts and deduced that they were likely emanating from a Dutch freighter known as the SS Ourang Medan, which was navigating the straits of Malacca.

A conscripted American merchant ship called the Silver Star was closest to the presumed location of the Ourang Medan. Originally christened “Santa Cecilia” by the Grace Line (W. R. Grace & Co.), the vessel had been renamed the Silver Star when the United States Maritime Commission “drafted” it in 1946.
Noting the terrified urgency in the message that came over the airwaves, the Captain and crew of the Silver Star wasted no time in changing their course in an effort to assist the apparently incapacitated ship. Within hours, the Silver Star caught sight of the Ourang Medan rising and falling in the choppy waters of the Malacca Strait.
As the merchant craft neared the ill-omened vessel, the crew noticed that there was no sign of life on the deck. The Americans attempted to hail the Dutch crew to no avail. When the rescue vessel arrived on the scene a few hours later, they tried to hail the Ourang Medan but there was no response to their hand and whistle signals. That’s when the Captain of the Silver Star decided to assemble a boarding party. As they left the safe haven of the Silver Star, these unfortunate souls had no idea that they were about to walk into a living nightmare.
Once on board, the crew quickly realized that the distress signal wasn’t an exaggeration. The deck "their frozen faces were upturned to the sun, the mouths were gaping open and the eyes staring…”. It is said that even the ship dog was dead, frozen into a haunting grimace. The captain’s remains were discovered on the Bridge, the communications office was still at his post, his fingertips resting on the telegraph. According to reports, all the corpses shared the same wide-eyed expressions on their faces. Each corpse was positioned with arms outstretched as if they were still locked in battle with some unseen assailant terror. On examination of bodies was found that all crew members died about 6-8 hours ago, but despite this, their body temperature exceeded the mark of  40 degrees Celsius.

Below deck, search party members found cadres of corpses in the boiler room, but almost as
disturbing as this grim find was the fact that the American crew members claimed to have felt an extreme chill in the nadir of the hold, even though the temperature outside was a scorching 110°F. While the search team could see clear evidence that the crew of the Ourang Medan suffered profoundly at the moment of their deaths, they could find no overt evidence of injury or foul play on the swiftly decaying corpses. Nor could they spy any damage to the ship itself.
Their captain determined that they should attach a line to the Ourang Medan and tow her ashore but as his crew was doing this they saw the Ourang was on fire, smoke was billowing from below her decks. These men barely had time to cut the towline and make their way back to the Silver Star before the Ourang Medan exploded with such a force that she "lifted herself from the water and swiftly sank”.
To this day, the exact fate of the Ourang Medan and her crew remain a mystery. Some say that pirates killed the crew and sabotaged the ship, others claim that she was transporting an illicit cargo of chemicals such as potassium cyanide and nitroglycerine (both of which become dangerous when combined with sea water). The condition of the bodies found aboard and haunting distress call, however, has led to more rampant speculation...ranging from the inhalation of carbon monoxide to some kind of nefarious UFO intervention. In the end, nobody really knows what happened.

The ship was lost to the sea and became a part of the realm of maritime legends and mysterious.
What we have presented so far are the facts as presented by those who were at the scene and were recorded in documents of various investigations conducted after a series of state authorities. Worthy of consideration is the fact that the time elapsed since the occurrence of this event altered any possibility to discover other elements that can provide clarification on the elucidation of the mystery. As such we are left little choice but to make interpretations of the information we have and throw some conclusions about what happened to Ourang Medan.

Briefly, the facts are as follows:
1 A Sosa was received by several ships that travel through the area that day. We can have no certainty that rescue call was sent from the ship Ourang Medan, we only know that he was received by several ships including the Silver Star.
2 Reports on the situation on the ship Ourang Medan belong exclusively to Silver Star crew who boarded the ship in distress.
3 It is not very clear when the event occurred, some documents place him in June 1947 while others in February 1948 when the event is particularly relevant because the weather could have a great influence on the interpretation of spot reports .
4 The incident occurred in a strait width not exceeding 80-100 km, which was very trafficked in that period. Is there no rescue ground forces to intervene more quickly than the Silver Star. Examination bodies revealed that people already died about 6-8 hours in a very strait circulated showing symptoms science then and the current can not explain.
5 The way the message is worded suggests that communications officer make sure that all officers

including captain are dead and their bodies are in a location clearly defined "chartroom and bridge", which
means that one could verify certain that it can work and that "threat" was either not very stringent or perhaps the disappeared. Yet the communications officer was found dead even as finger transmitter would end while transmitting the message "I die".
6 On deck there were only remnants captain, no crew member who did not end near the vessel
7 crew bodies found on deck, were "frozen" in a similar position. Position with arms stretched out as if trying to fend off an unseen terror, does not suggest in any way a gas poisoning, which could eventually produce symptoms of suffocation. Also, the position of defense suggests that people trying to defend a physically solid. It is unlikely that all underwent concomitant hallucinations. However, communications officer could be consistent which means that the message is not felt an immediate threat, nor suffered from any visual or auditory hallucination.
8 cursory examinations of the bodies showed that all individuals have suffered before death, the bodies temperature increases above 40 degrees Celsius. We can assume that there is one exception - the communications officer that if he died with his hand on the transmitter while transmitting a message somewhat coherent unlikely his body temperature to be so high.
9 In their haste to withdraw rescue team members from the Silver Star had the inspiration to make even the dog's body for further analysis. Experience should tell them that we are witnessing an incident full of unknowns and it will lead to an explosion shortly sinking with the loss of any evidence that could lead to the elucidation of the case.
10 Pretty strange is the statement that the search team members when examining bodies found in the boiler room all felt a shiver down your spine while the outside temperature was 100 ° F. This may elucidate questions about the period in which event, I personally tend to believe that occurred in February 1948.

Researchers that have tried to determine what actually happened to the crew on the Ourang Medan have all hit brick walls. One reason this tale is considered a legend is that fact that there are no official records that this ship ever existed. But this does not mesh with the fact many ships heard the Ourang’s distress call, and it is believed by many that the Silver Star did change course and it did discover this ship. 

Of course many have speculated what exactly caused these men’s deaths--which I find fascinating since in the same breath it is mentioned that this incident didn’t actually happen. Many theories have been suggested, some more far-fetched than others.

1. Cover up
One mentioned often is since this ship sank right after the Second World War it’s relative obscurity was used to transport chemicals used to make poisonous gas--it is stated if salt water hit these chemicals it would have killed the crew and then eventually caused the explosion. An interesting note about this theory is some believe that the real name of this ship was changed to disguise the fact that it was transporting these chemicals. Regardless, if this theory is believed one still has to wonder why this mixture of gases plus the salt water didn’t cause the ship to explode immediately.

2. Explosion of a boiler
Another theory states that the ship’s boiler must have malfunctioned causing a carbon monoxide leak. The crew then inhaled these fumes and died. But why did the seaman on deck not survive. Wouldn’t the fresh sea air have saved them ?

3. Methane gas bubbles from the see
A third theory presented involves “methane bubbles” surfacing in clouds from a hole or fissure in the sea floor which then asphyxiated the crew. This theory is at fault because these bubbles could not have caused the ship to explode. One has to wonder if these bubbles could kill the entire ship’s crew?

4. Alien attack
In 1953, Frank Edwards and Robert V. Hulse retold the basics of the legend for Fate Magazine and in his 1955 book “The case For the UFO,” astronomer, author and noted “Philadelphia Experiment” researcher, Morris K. Jessup, hypothesized that the crew of the Ourang Medan may have been attacked by extraterrestrials for reasons unknown.
Other Fortean enthusiasts have theorized that the unlucky Dutch crew may have had a Scooby Doo-like run-in with vengeful wraiths of the sea or a ghost ship full of surly, undead pirates. The dubious proof, which supporters of the paranormal option use to confirm their theory, is the evident lack of a natural cause for the deaths as well as the purportedly petrified expressions etched onto the faces of the doomed sailors. Add to this the unnatural chill in the cargo hold and the assertion that some of the deceased sailors were reaching up towards what was assumed to be an unknown adversary and you have all the ingredients for a hoary seafarers’ tale.
This is scant evidence indeed for a supposed interaction with either evil aliens or malevolent phantoms, but one can hardly blame yarn spinning mariners for trying to add a little spice to a story told around campfires on stony shorelines to wide-eyed children… or even novice deckhands. So, if we pressume for the moment that the paranormal is out then we must be dealing with…

5.  Pirate attack
Others speculated that pirates boarded the ship and attacked the crew but this was immediately ruled out because there were no marks found on any of the bodies. An article in Fatemagazine in 1953 stated that since none of the mainstream reasons purposed were solid it could have been something paranormal that caused these deaths.

6. Paranormal
One rumor stated after this in 1965 involved a UFO. It was put forth that aliens must have attacked the ship. Another reason given is based upon the fact that the Silver Star crew experienced a feeling of immense cold in the Ourang Medan’s lower decks. This caused speculation that “ghosts” had something to do with the crew’s demise.


When all is said and done, if anyone really knows what happened to the Ourang Medan and her crew then they’re not talking, but whatever the truth is behind this unfathomable tragedy, it remains one of the most perplexing and downright scary maritime enigmas of the 20th Century… and while it might not be as famous as the plethora of other ghost ships said to sail the high seas, it is every bit a terrifying.

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