The Unsolved Mystery of Ourang Medan

A bizzare incident occurred when a distress calls were picked up by numerous ships near Indonesia in 1948. The SOS calls came from SS Ourang Medan. The signals claimed, "All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead." This message was followed by indecipherable Morse code then, "I die." The S.S. Ourang Medan was a Dutch cargo ship, which, became a shipwreck in Indonesian waters after its entire crew had died under suspicious circumstances with no survivors and no visible signs of injuries on the dead bodies. To this day, the exact fate of the Ourang Medan and her crew remain a seemingly impenetrable mystery.

City of Baltimore

In February 1948 a series of distress calls were sent out by the Dutch freighter Ourang Medan in the Straits of Malacca, Indonesia. Two American vessels navigating the Strait of Malacca, the City of Baltimore and the Silver Star, among others, picked up distress messages. Within hours of the first distress signals, the first rescue ship Silver Star arrived on the scene. Upon arrival, the rescue vessel tried to hail the Ourang Medan but there was no response to their hand and whistle signals.

The Silver Star crew boarded the apparently undamaged Ourang Medan in a rescue attempt. The SOS message proved correct; every member of the Ourang Medan’s crew lay dead, the ship was found littered with corpses in what appeared to be terrified postures. All the crew and officers of the Ourang Medan were dead, with their eyes open, faces looking towards the sun, arms outstretched and a look of terror on their faces. The crew’s corpses lay scattered on the decks. The captain laid dead on the bridge, his officers in the wheelhouse, chartroom and wardroom all deceased. A trip to the communications room revealed the author of the SOS messages, also dead, his hand still on the Morse sending key, eyes wide open and teeth bared. Strangely, there was no sign of wounds or injuries on any of the bodies. Even the ship's dog was dead, found snarling at some unseen enemy. When nearing the bodies in the boiler room, the rescue crew felt a chill though the temperature was near 110°F.

The decision was made to tow the ship back to port. Unfortunately, as the ship was prepared to be towed, smoke began rolling up from the hull. The rescue crew left the ship and barely had time to cut the tow lines before the Ourang Medan exploded and sank.

Authors such as Jessup speculate that the crew might have been attacked by UFOs or paranormal forces prior to their deaths. Circumstantial evidence cited by these sources includes the apparent absence of a natural cause of death, the reportedly terrified expressions on the faces of the deceased, and rumors that some of the dead were "pointing" towards an unknown enemy.

Roy Bainton, a maritime researcher and former seaman, said if we want to try and explain the obstinate absence of the illfated Orang Medan from official records, we must look at the political turmoil which existed throughout Indonesia in the immediate postwar years. The logbook went down with the ship and there was no mention of the Ourang Medan in the registers after 1948. Then came a breakthrough, a 32 page booklet entitled “The Death Ship in the South Sea”, written in 1954 by a now deceased German researcher, who named the City of Baltimore as receiving the SOS calls and the Grace Lines Silver Star as the boarding ship. But it appears that an inspection of Grace Lines records has not yet been achieved.

Roy Bainton tells more about the ship and her cargo as revealed in the booklet. She appear to have been carrying a rather old cargo, part of which included potassium cyanide and nitro-glycerine. Bainton and others, hypothesize that the Ourang Medan might have been involved in smuggling operations of chemical substances such as a combination of potassium cyanide and nitroglycerin or even wartime stocks of nerve agents. According to these theories, sea water would have entered the ship's hold, reacting with the cargo to release toxic gases, which then caused the crew to succumb to asphyxia and/or poisoning. But here's another mystery; if a gas leak killed the crew, what caused the boilers to blow up? was the final explosion another accident or an officially ordered scuttling?

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