In the second installment of our spooky stories from the sea, we'll visit the vessels of Baychimo, Mary Celeste and take a trip through history with Disney's version of a pirate tale. And remember, these are just stories, so don't get scared, now.
Baychimo Baychimo was a Swedish cargo steamship built in 1914. It was used for trade between the Inuit natives of Victoria Island and settlers of the Northwest Territory. In 1931, Baychimo became trapped in ice and the crew abandoned ship, setting up camp nearby. They briefly re-boarded when the ship temporarily broke free, but it soon became ice-bound again. All but a 15-man skeleton crew were airlifted away while the remaining crew kept watch over the trapped vessel and its cargo from a nearby shelter.
During a violent blizzard, Baychimo disappeared and the crew assumed she broke apart during the storm and sank. However, days later, the vessel was spotted 45 miles away, again trapped in ice. Her crew was able to retrieve the cargo but made no attempt to salvage the boat, which seemed to be on the brink of sinking.
But Baychimo did not sink, as there were at least 11 reported sightings of the derelict ship over the next four
decades. The last sighting was reported by
an Inuit fisherman who spotted her off the Alaskan coast (trapped in ice, of course) in 1969...38 years after her crew abandoned her.
Dubbed the “Ghost Ship of the Arctic” in 2006, the Alaskan government established a committee to determine her fate. However, she has never been spotted again and her ultimate fate is unknown.
In early November 1872, Mary Celeste, her crew of eight and two passengers set sail from New York to Italy with a cargo of 1,700 barrels of American alcohol. The crew of Dei Gratia, which left the harbor seven days after Mary Celeste, spotted the ship under full sail heading towards the Strait of Gibraltar. Although no distress signals were flying, Dei Gratia’s crew suspected Mary Celeste was derelict and sent a boarding party to investigate.
Upon boarding Mary Celeste, the Dei Gratia crew found the boat in relatively good condition — two hatches had been left open, and those areas were a “watery mess” but otherwise all appeared fine. However, there was no sign of the vessel’s crew or passengers. According to some accounts, there was food on the table and full cups of tea. Other odd observations were that the ship’s clock had stopped and its compass was destroyed. The sextant and chronometer were missing, as were most of the ship’s papers (although the ship’s logbook was left behind). The lifeboat had been set adrift and the only remaining passenger was a sleeping cat.
The last entry in the logbook had been made two weeks earlier, placing Mary Celeste 160 kilometers west of the Azores, and was otherwise unremarkable. After sailing the abandoned ship to Gibraltar, it was discovered that even though all 1,700 barrels of alcohol were aboard, nine of them were empty. Because the circumstances were so suspicious, the crew of Dei Gratia was awarded only a tiny fraction of the salvage. Wild stories abound as to what really happened — some say the ship was pilfered by pirates who then set the crew and passengers adrift to die at sea. Others suspect the crew was eaten by sharks during a morning swim, but the reality is that we will likely never know what befell the lost souls of Mary Celeste.
The Watertown Ghosts
While making way off the Mexican coast in the mid-1920s, two crewmembers of the SS Watertown were asphyxiated by gas fumes while cleaning out a cargo hold. The bodies of the deceased crewmen were buried at sea.
The following day, just before dark, the entire ship was in an uproar when crew reported seeing ghosts of the two men in the water at the ship’s stern. The sightings continued and a crewman claimed he had been able to snap a picture, proving their existence with a camera.
With the film untouched and left inside the camera, the captain delivered the camera to a commercial photographer to develop the images and authenticate the photo, which shows the faces of two men in the waves. To this day, the image of the Watertown ghosts is believed by many to be a legitimate paranormal photograph of ghosts at sea.
The Ghosts of Warderick Wells
It is said that in the 1800s, several monks were traveling by ship to the United States when they were caught in a terrible hurricane. The ship’s captain sought shelter in what is now the Exuma Land and Sea Park in The Bahamas, but their ship sank and all aboard died. Some say that late at night, especially during a full moon, you can hear the monks chanting in the anchorage.
Todd Wicker, the former steward aboard a vintage Palmer Johnson, claims that
a number of crew reported seeing the ghost of a young boy on the boat at various times. Wicker also claims that late at night when the boat is quiet, passengers and crew can hear the footsteps of the child running on the deck.
The Disney Version
Disney adapted its own version of the Flying Dutchman legend in the third film of the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
In their telling, Davy Jones becomes enchanted by the sorceress, Calypso, who convinces him to take command of Flying Dutchman, a ship that tenders the souls of those lost at sea to the underworld. As captain of the ship, he is only permitted to come ashore once every 10 years. Jones returns after 10 years, desperate to see his love, Calypso. When she does not requite his love, he cuts out his broken heart to alleviate his pain and breaks his promise to Calypso by offering lost souls the option of 100 years aboard the Dutchman or death.