The Mysterious Tragedy of the S.S. Ourang Medan

Sometime in the 1940s, the cargo ship S.S. Ourang Medan was found somewhere near Indonesia drifting without control. The crew was found dead, along with a dog which also died. There was no sign of violence, but one lifeboat was gone. Nearby ships had reported hearing a radio distress call the night before.

“All officers including captain dead,” the voice said, “lying in chartroom and on bridge, probably whole crew dead ... I die.”

With those words, the S.S. Ourang Medan cargo ship would go down in infamy. For decades, stories have circulated of the crew being found dead following the distress call, with no obvious cause. Worse, their faces were said to be frozen in horror, anguish, or a combination of the two.

Accounts of the disaster made their way around the world over the next few years, but they raised more questions than there were answers. Surely there was an investigation into the deaths! But no, the evidence was erased when the Ourang Medan's engine blew up, producing four explosions that destroyed the ship shortly after it was found. What cargo was the ship carrying? No one knew, because the ship apparently wasn't properly registered, which means it could have been carrying anything, including dangerous chemicals. Where did the information we have come from? Again, the answers are quite murky. Read what we know and what we don't know about the Ourang Medan at Mental Floss. 

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Up to now we sailed through every stormAnd I've always had your tender lips to keep me warmOh, I need to have the strength that flows from youDon't let me drift away my dear, when love can see me
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