Who Forted? Magazine

Mysterious Death at Sea: the Disturbing Discovery at the S.S. Ourang Medan

The location of the disappearance of the SS Ourang Medan, just off the Indonesian coast

In February of 1947, near the Indonesian coastline, a series of strange distress calls were picked up by numerous ships and listening posts; each received dispatch more alarming than the next. The calls came from the Dutch freighter known as the S.S. Ourang Medan and it was clear to all who received her messages something terrible had happened aboard. “All officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” This was the first post received by rescue, then what followed was a undecipherable series of morse code and finally the last message: “I die”.

Through triangulation, the position of the ship was discovered within the straits of Matacca, and the nearest rescue ship, an American boat known as the 6,507th Silver Star, rushed to the aid of the stricken vessel. It took them many hours to reach the Ourang, but once the shop was in sight they hailed the Dutch vessel with whistle calls and hand signals, but recieved no response. The boat sat unmanned and motionless on the water as if she had no crew to direct her at all. Carefully, the officers of the Silver Star approached and boarded the vessel. What greeted them was a horrible and frightening sight.

The bodies of all officers and crew were found dead below the ships deck, their eyes open and faces upturned, looking towards the sky. Some men were discovered with their arms outstretched, a look of horror frozen on their faces, though there were no visible signs of injury on the bodies. Even the ship’s dog was found dead, teeth bared, sneering at an unseen danger.

The rescue crew pressed on towards the boiler room, and as they approached they noted a distinct  chill in the air, though the temperature was reaching nearly 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The crew of the Silver Star decided their best course of action would be to retreat and tow the Ourang back to the port where they could better distinguish what had occurred on the lost ship.

The ship that made the rescue attempt, SS Silver Star

All members of the Silver Star headed back to their own ship and prepared the line. Before they were able to get under way, smoke began choking from the hull of the S.S. Ourang Medan. In a mad rush to save themselves, the crew members of Star cut the tow line, hurrying to create distance. With a massive blast, the Ourang exploded into flams and sunk to the bottom of the ocean, leaving it’s exact fate a mystery to this day.

To date, there have been many theories about what happened on the Ourang that February night. Some believe the ship and crew were involved in the illegal smuggling of chemical substances such as potassium cyanide and nitro-glycerine; possibly even war-time nerve agents. If this were the case, sea water might have entered the ship’s hold, reacting with the toxic cargo, which in turn would have released toxic gasses and carbon monoxide into the air. This would have been more then enough to kill a ship full of men. It’s possible that the salt water could have reacted with the nitro-glycerine causing the reported fire and subsequent explosion. This is, of course, just speculation, as no one is sure that the ship was ever carrying chemicals at all.

There are still others who believe the ship and crew were victims to some form of paranormal attack, a theory that has become popular with many UFO enthusiasts over the years. After all, there appeared to be no natural cause of death, only the looks of terror left frozen on the crew’s faces. Some of the bodies where reported to have been found pointing up towards the sky. Might they have been pointing towards an confusing and unknown enemy?

In recent years, interested writers have noted their inability to find any mention of this strange story in Lloyd’s Shipping Registry, and no registration records for a ship by the name of the S.S. Ourang Medan could be located. Interestingly enough, the rescue ship, Silver Star has, in fact, been established with some certainty, and though the registry for the Ourang has yet to be found, what was discovered was a report dating back to May 1952 proceedings of the merchant Marine Council. It states: “…their frozen faces were upturned to the sun, the mouths were gaping open and eyes staring…”

The S.S. it seems is a true mystery, with scraps of fact coloured in with theory. Were the men poisoned by the cargo they carried? Or did they come under attack, alone and isolated, by some strange and unexplained force? Perhaps the answers to all these questions are sitting at the bottom of the ocean within the straits of Matacca. What real evidence the story does lend us is, in the end, enough to let us make up our own minds.

Dana Matthews
Dana Newkirk is a co-creator and regular contributor to WF? 'Zine. Dana hosted the internationally syndicated television series The Girly Ghost Hunters, which originally aired on the Space Channel in Canada. It was pretty terrible. If you so choose, you can catch the reruns on Sunday mornings around 4:30am on channel 44. Her main interests lie within the genre of vintage fringe, though she has been known to stand awkwardly in the background of many Who Forted videos.
Dana Matthews

10 Comments

  1. Lou

    07/19/2011 at 3:33 PM

    Sea-ninjas.

    Thier you go, again, I have found the answer to another mystery.

  2. Miss_Majic

    07/24/2011 at 10:43 AM

    That’s a damn bloody fascinating story…I’d go with the chemical cargo

  3. Vas

    07/26/2011 at 12:40 PM

    Interesting story but if no one can find mention of the ship existing then maybe it is just that, a story.

    Also, you should probably proofread your articles.

    Seriously.

    • Greg Newkirk

      07/26/2011 at 1:19 PM

      That’s the fun part about paranormally tinged mysteries though, right? Not knowing what’s real and what isn’t? Sure, it might just be a story.. but so are plenty of ghost stories, bigfoot sightings, UFO abduction cases, etc. They’re fun and fascinating regardless.

      We do our best to keep things as free of grammatical mistakes as possible, but granted, a few things slip through the cracks once in awhile. Many apologies. If, you know, we were being paid or making any kind of advertising revenue for the website, maybe we could quit our day jobs and devote our time to making sure all the commas are in the correct places.

      Until then, please enjoy our advertisement-free labor of love, at the sake of a few random spelling errors. Unless, of course, you’d like to contribute your proofreading expertise?

      • Terry Skudder

        08/02/2011 at 2:20 AM

        I’m with you, some people are not satisfied with reading a story, they have to pick it apart and worry about commas or semi-colons etc. I will admit I get quite amused when repliers use there/their and such wrongly more often than the original authors.

  4. Pingback: Esoterica: Norfolk Church Ghost, Cry Baby Bridge and Farmer Sees Dead People » WeNewsIt

  5. Miss_Majic

    08/25/2011 at 7:45 AM

    Well said Newkirk, well said

  6. George Wagner

    09/02/2011 at 8:34 PM

    One would not expect accurate records to be maintained on unregistered ships illegally transporting even more illegal cargoes….of death.

    I’d look for a ship which supposedly sank or burned a year or so before the Ourang Medan set sail with its nefarious cargo

  7. butch

    03/19/2013 at 10:59 AM

    also, many ships were leased out by parent companies to other countries during the war and some of the ships were registered under other shipping names or call numbers only the country that leased them would know for obvious reasons. the main one being what they were shipping.

  8. james

    10/16/2013 at 7:53 AM

    this is an old tale of the seas.

    it was common for ships involved in such things to hide their identities.

    lots of illegal shipping went on back then by ships that changed their IDs. they even went to lengths to remodel the upper parts of some ships to hid the origin of the ships even more.
    i suspect there is at least some truth in the old yarn. in the foggy world of illegal shipping proof is going to be very illusive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>