The SS Ourang Medan was a rumored ghost ship that sank somewhere in the Straits of Malacca or elsewhere in the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) after its entire crew perished in mysterious circumstances in either 1940, 1947, or 1948, depending on the newspaper source.
Given that there are no records of a ship called the Ourang Medan, most people concur that the Ourang Medan narrative is a myth.
The SS Ourang Medan: The Mystery Behind It
The United States Coast Guard’s Proceedings of the Merchant Marine Council, issued in May 1952, had one English reference to the ship and the incident. Elsevier’s Weekly is cited as the primary source in an earlier English mention that appeared in The Albany Times of Albany, New York, on October 10, 1948.
The phrase “Man of Medan” can roughly be translated from the Malay or Indonesian word Ourang, also spelled as orang. Medan is the biggest city on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Several books and journals, primarily on Forteana, have published accounts of the ship accident.
However, their veracity and even the ship’s existence remain unknown, and the specifics of the vessel’s construction and history, if any, are also unknown. Despite extensive searches, no formal registration or accident investigation has ever been found.
Three pieces from the Dutch-Indonesian publication De locomotief: Samarangsch handels- en advertentie-blad were the first to publish the story (February 3, 1948, with two photographs, February 28, 1948, and March 13, 1948).
The Ourang Medan was discovered 400 nautical miles (740 km; 460 mi) southeast of the Marshall Islands; however, the identity of the ship that discovered it has yet to be given.
The lone survivor of the Ourang Medan crew, who was discovered by an Italian missionary and locals on Taongi Atoll in the Marshall Islands, is profiled, and he gives a terrifying account of what happened on board.
Before passing away, the guy tells the missionary that the ship was carrying a poorly stowed cargo of oil or vitriol and that the deadly gases leaking from damaged containers killed most of the crew. The Ourang Medan was allegedly going purposefully under the radar as it left an unknown small Chinese port for Costa Rica.
The survivor, a nameless German, passed away after telling the missionary his tale, and the missionary then told Silvio Scherli of Trieste, Italy, about it. The Dutch newspaper adds a disclaimer at the end:
“This concludes our narrative regarding Ourang Medan’s mystery. We must reiterate that we have no additional information regarding this “mystery of the sea.”
Additionally, we must address only some of the story’s open-ended issues. The fact that the entire narrative is a fantasy—a spectacular sea romance—might be clear. On the other side, Silvio Scherli, the author, guarantees the narrative’s veracity.”
On September 28, 1959, Silvio Scherli allegedly wrote a study on Trieste’s “Export Trade.”
The incident was covered in 1940 newspaper reports from the Associated Press in British publications like the Daily Mirror and the Yorkshire Evening Post, according to fresh evidence discovered by The Skittish Library.
The account differed from later stories once more, with the setting being the Solomon Islands and the SOS messages being different. Silvio Scherli in Trieste still appears to be the story’s original source.
Ourang Medan: Fact or Fiction?
The City of Baltimore and the Silver Star, among other passing American ships, were said to have picked up many distress signals from the neighboring Dutch commercial ship Ourang Medan at some point in or around June 1947 (Gaddis and others identify the approximate date as early February 1948).
On board the stricken ship, a radio operator delivered the following Morse code message: SOS from Ourang Medan: “We’re floating,” On the bridge and in the chartroom, all officers are dead, including the captain. Most likely, the entire crew is dead.”
After a few jumbled dots and dashes (in Morse code), two sentences were plainly heard. It was “I die.” Then, following that terrifying warning, nothing else was reported.
The Ourang Medan was found to be unharmed when the Silver Star crew eventually found it and boarded it in an effort to rescue the survivors. However, the Ourang Medan was found to be littered with dead bodies (including the carcass of a dog) all over the place, with the dead bodies found sprawled on their backs.
The frozen (and allegedly badly frightened) faces of the deceased upturned to the sun above with mouths gaping open and eyes staring straight ahead. No survivors were found. The deceased bodies had no obvious evidence of trauma.
A fire unexpectedly broke out in the ship’s No. 4 cargo hold as it was about to be prepped for a tow by the Silver Star to a neighboring port, causing the boarding party to immediately escape the doomed Dutch freighter and preventing any further investigations.
Soon after, witnesses saw the Ourang Medan explode before eventually sinking.
What Happened to the Ourang Medan?
There are numerous theories about what could have happened to the infamous ship. Though it is easy for us to blame the paranormal, first, let us look at some of the most plausible ones.
1) Unprotected Freight with Dangerous Materials
According to theories put out by Bainton and others, Ourang Medan may have been involved in smuggling chemical compounds such as mixtures of potassium cyanide and nitroglycerin or even wartime stocks of nerve poisons.
These ideas propose that the crew would have perished from asphyxiation or poisoning after seawater entered the ship’s hold and reacted with the cargo to generate hazardous gases. Later, the nitroglycerin and seawater would have reacted, resulting in the reported flames and explosion.
Another hypothesis holds that the ship was carrying nerve gas that the Japanese military kept in China during the conflict and later transferred to the U.S. forces.
It would leave a paper trail so no U.S. ship could convey it. As a result, it was loaded aboard an unregistered ship and sent to the United States or a Pacific Island.
2) Poisoning By Carbon Monoxide (CO)
According to Gaddis, the cause of the shipwreck could have been a hidden simmering fire or a problem with the boiler system. All those on board would have perished if the carbon monoxide had been released, and the fire would have progressively grown out of control and eventually destroyed the ship.
Is the Story about Ourang Medan True?
Many authors state that they could not locate any reference to the case in Lloyd’s Shipping Register. Furthermore, none of the countries, including the Netherlands, had any registration records for a ship named Ourang Medan.
Although the identity of the Silver Star, which was allegedly involved in the unsuccessful rescue attempt, has been established with high probability, according to author Roy Bainton, the total lack of information on the sunken ship itself has raised questions about the story’s provenance and veracity.
The Silver Star’s ship logs revealed no evidence of any such attempt at rescue. Bainton and others have suggested that reports of the date, location, identities of the involved ships, and circumstances of the accident may have been wrong or exaggerated or that the narrative may have been entirely made up.
A British researcher discovered the Ourang Medan story in two British newspapers in 1940 (The Yorkshire Evening Post on November 21, 1940, and The Daily Mirror on November 22, 1940), both of which cited the AP (The Associated Press) news agency.
The story had been changed to take place in the Solomon Islands, but it also connected to Trieste.
In the end, it is highly possible that the story of Ourang Medan is nothing more than a mere sailor’s tale about sea monsters and the undeniable perils of crossing the sea in the 20th century. Nonetheless, could there be something wrong? Could the story about the Ourang Medan be true? Was it a coverup? Comment your thoughts below!
Next, read about the Plausible Conspiracy Theories Behind 9/11 and then, about the Villisca Axe Murders: An Entire Family Butchered in Cold Blood!
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