Jules Verne said: “The sea is the only embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the Living Infinite.” Mel Fisher and his crew of treasure hunters may have experienced the sea’s “wonderful” and loving existence when they discovered the $450 million Atocha Motherlode in 1985, but the same can’t be said for the 1,500 passengers who went down with the Titanic in 1912.
From Noah’s Ark and Thor Heyerdahl’s raft to sirens and sea monsters, sailors have long passed down seafaring lore and legend. Nautical folklore is comprised of tales of ghost ships and castaways, of lost continents, mermaids, pirates, and portents of doom, and nautical folklore is so distinctly tied to maritime history that it’s impossible to tell where one braid ends and the other begins.
Ships have been wrecked amongst the rocks and reefs in the Graveyard of the Atlantic and lost in the waters of the Bermuda Triangle. Some have been discovered perfectly intact but missing their crew. Others vanished without a trace moments after sending a distress call. Here are 10 ships that never made it home.
10 Jian Seng
9 Lyubov Orlova
8 The Nina
“The weather’s turned nasty, how do we get away from it?”
7 The Intrepid
Fort Pierce, Florida, 1996.
On December 22, 1967, Dan Burack and Patrick Horgan left Miami’s yacht marina in Burack’s 23-foot cabin cruiser, Witchcraft. The men were near Buoy #7, less than a mile from shore, when they hit something below. Burack called the Coast Guard for a tow, but when the Coast Guard showed up 19 minutes later, the ship had vanished.
5 Andrea Gail
“She’s comin’ on boys, and she’s comin’ on strong.”
Those were Captain “Billy” Tyne’s last recorded words before the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing vessel out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, was lost at sea in the “Perfect Storm” in 1991. After fishing the Flemish Cap, the captain set a course for home despite the warning of dangerous weather conditions. It’s believed the ship’s malfunctioning ice machine, which was unable to maintain the catch much longer, played a role in Tyne’s decision.
The Andrea Gail’s last reported position was 180 miles northeast of Sable Island, where it encountered 30-foot seas and 60-knot winds. The story of the Andrea Gail and its crew inspired Sebastian Junger’s 1997 book, The Perfect Storm, which was made into a film in 2000 staring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.
4 HMS Investigator
3 The Mary Celeste
In 1872 the American merchant brigantine, Mary Celeste, was discovered off the Azores with no crew on board. The cargo was untouched and the crews’ personal belongings still in place. The boat was in seaworthy condition, and the last log entry was written 10 days earlier. So what happened?
2 Kaz II
Great Barrier Reef, April 20, 2007.
A helicopter spots a catamaran with a tattered sail drifting off the northern coast of Australia. Queensland Emergency Management officials board the Kaz II. The ship’s engine is idling and there’s a half-empty cup of coffee, laptop, and newspaper lying open on a table next to a pile of clothes. The GPS and radio are functioning perfectly. But there’s nobody on board.
Skipper Des Batten and brothers Pete and John Tunstead, experienced yachtsmen and described as “typical Aussie blokes,” vanished after setting sail on a two-month trip to Western Australia. There are many theories about what could have happened to the three crewmembers. Did the men stage their own disappearance for insurance reasons? Were smugglers or pirates involved? Foul play? But the mystery spawned even wilder conspiracy theories: did a paranormal or supernatural event take place somewhere near the Great Barrier Reef? Could the men have been visited by a UFO?
1 The USS Cyclops
The USS Cyclops vanished on March 4, 1918 with 309 men aboard. It’s the most famous of the early 20th century seafaring disappearances and represents the largest non-combat loss of life in U.S. Naval history. The USS Cyclops is one of many ships to vanish in the Bermuda Triangle.
The USS Cyclops was the largest collier in the U.S. Navy’s fleet. What could cause a ship that large to vanish? Possible causes of the Cyclops’ disappearance include rogue waves, underwater methane gas pockets, or a torpedo attack by an enemy submarine. An investigation by Naval Intelligence later revealed that Captain Worley was actually German-born. It was rumored he may have conspired with the enemy to hand over the ship, but there was never any evidence to back the claim.
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