I fucking hate the ocean, mateys. It’s a vast expanse of this planet that holds a tremendous volume of secrets and horrifying wildlife. Go too deep and the pressure of all that water on your tiny mortal body will crush you. If you even get that deep, that is. Get to a certain point where the pressure becomes a problem and the oxygen in your blood turns to nitrogen. In that environment, nature is out to get you. You wind up at the bottom of the food chain and the very nature of the setting can simply crush your body. Fuck the ocean. As it turns out, you’re not even safe on the surface. With hundreds of miles of nothingness reaching out in every direction all sorts of strange shit can and does happen. Such was the case for the Dutch freighter, the SS Ourang Medan in 1947.
In June of 1947, two American vessels sailing the Strait of Malaca in Indonesian waters received a distress call from a Dutch merchant ship that identified itself as the Ourang Medan. The call came in freaked out bursts of morse code. What could be understood was received as fragments.
All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.
It didn’t end there, unfortunately. The final transmission from the Ourang Medan simply read
The responding ship was the SS Silver Star who attempted to hail the undamaged Ourang Medan to no avail. What they found when they boarded the derelict vessel was a scene straight out of a horror movie. The deck was littered with corpses. The entire crew was dead, including a dog aboard the ship. As described in the distress call, the ship’s officers lay dead in the chartroom and the wheelhouse and the captain lay dead on the bridge. This wasn’t the strangest part of the story, however. The bodies of the crew all showed signs of being frozen in terror at the moment of death. Their facial expressions horrified, teeth bared, some pointing at the sky, some simply looking upward as though something from above willed them all dead at the exact moment. A brief examination of some of the victims showed no outward signs of trauma. The crew of the Ourang Medan simply died on the spot.
The Silver Star hitched the Ouran Medan up with tow cables and prepared to haul the ship to port. That is, until smoke from the lower decks billowed up and the whole thing caught on fire. The Silver Star cut the cables in time before the whole thing exploded and conveniently sank.
There are a lot of factors at work that could explain what was going on. I like to think that the crew suddenly encountered the sunken city of R’Lyeh and were simply scared to death by the horrifying majesty of Cthulhu or that a UFO descended on the ship and zapped the fucker with a death ray but it’s actually most likely that the ship was secretly transporting outlawed nerve gas from Japanese research bases to American bases in the wake of World War 2 and the same kind of courtesy that Nazi scientists were granted under Operation Paperclip was given to Japanese weapons researchers. We don’t hear much about it because Unit 731 wasn’t really our concern during World War 2. That was really China and The Soviet Union’s beef but the presiding theory is that the undocumented ship, The Ourang Medan (it’s actual identity unknown), was probably smuggling tremendous amounts of nerve gas and TNT around the south seas and a leaky hold caused the containers to deteriorate and the TNT to become immediately unstable.
Then again, that is if the story is even true. There is documented evidence in shipping logs that the Silver Star engaged in a failed rescue attempt in that location around this time but the details of the log have been lost forever either to the natural shifting of the sands of time or by the swift hand of the United States government during the Cold War. By official accounts, The Ourang Medan never existed. This could indicate that the story is another sailor’s ghost story, like the Marie Celeste, or it could mean that it was operating under false flag conditions to smuggle nasty weapons around for the United States military.