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Ellen Austin

The Ellen Austin was captained by A.J. Griffin and sailing a London-New York route under the American flag, according to Lloyd’s of London. The ship supposedly came across a derelict ship, placed on board a prize crew, and attempted to sail with it to New York in 1881. According to the stories, the derelict disappeared; others elaborating further that the derelict reappeared minus the prize crew, then disappeared again with a second prize crew on board.

In 1881 during its first and final journey as a packet ship, the Ellen Austin would have its reported mysterious encounter. The Ellen Austin came across an unidentified schooner drifting just north of the Sargasso Sea, listless and “sailing an erratic path.”

Captain of the Ellen Austin commanded his crew to follow and observe the derelict for two days, just in case that the abandoned ship could be a trap. After two days with no activity or movement from the mysterious vessel, the captain was convinced it was safe to proceed closer.

The Ellen Austin moved within hailing distance. When the ship still failed to respond, the captain gathered four of his men and rowed toward the abandoned ship.

Then captain sent over a prize crew to investigate. They shortly confirmed the vessel was indeed strangely deserted.

Upon inspection, the vessel appeared to be shipshape and in reasonably well-maintained condition. Its sails were furled and tattered from exposure, but the vessel’s rigging was intact. There was no sign of any violence, nor was there any sign of a crew. The only things missing were the ship’s log and its nameplates, which for some reason had been removed from the bow.

Two of the Ellen Austin crewmen inspected the abandoned ship’s hold and reported it contained a well-packed shipment of mahogany. The captain speculated the schooner had likely been sailing from Honduras – possibly bound for England or a Mediterranean port – before something must have convinced the crew to evacuate quickly.

The circumstances were indeed curious, however the captain was intrigued by the salvage opportunity of this otherwise fine ship.

The prize crew was ordered to sail the vessel in tandem with the Ellen Austin.

About 2 days later the Ellen Austin and the nameless schooner were parted by a squall. The Ellen Austin had been separated from the abandoned vessel for some time before it was spotted once again by the Captain’s lookout. Through his spyglass, the captain could barely see the sails of the derelict. For some reason it did not seem to be following course, instead drifting aimlessly once again.

When the Ellen Austin closed in on the schooner, the captain and his men attempted to hail the ship, but no answer came. He assembled an inspection team and quickly rowed to the cryptic ship. Once again, the men boarded with guns drawn.

Of the prize crew, they found nothing. No one was on board. The cargo hold was still full and most everything else was in order – except there was no sign captain’s prize crew had ever been on the ship. No food rations were missing. The bunks had not been slept in. And the new logbook, left by the captain upon the vessel’s first discovery, had also disappeared.

It was as if the first encounter between the Ellen Austin and the derelict had never happened. The crew of the Ellen Austin – now convinced the derelict was cursed – wished to abandon it at sea. The Ellen Austin crew, teaming with superstition, sailed on for London.


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  1. While I'm always sceptical about these things, let me indulge in a little speculation here.

    Time slips. Perhaps there were no signs of the prize crew because the prize crew had never been on the ship when the captain boarded the derelict vessel for the second time. I've always found these stories interesting, thank you for keeping an eye on them.

  2. @Vulpes Inculta: You're welcome. Thanks for reading and sharing your thought with us :)


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