Ghost ships?

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lpetrich
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Ghost ships?

Post by lpetrich » Sat May 23, 2015 12:23 pm

A certain bit of present-day mythology has inspired me to ask about ghost ships or what might be called Unidentified Sailing Objects.

I checked on Ghost ship (Wikipedia), and it had a lot of entries on real abandoned ships. I checked on its "Folklore, legends and mythology" section, and after two undated entries are some ghost ships recorded from the eighteenth century, the Lady Lovibond, the Ghost Ship of Northumberland Strait, and the most famous one of all, the Flying Dutchman (Wikipedia).

I find it hard to believe that people only started seeing ghost ships in the 18th cy., but I don't know where to look for older ghost-ship lore. It would be interesting to find out how far back ghost ships go. My guess would be to when people started building ships with sails large enough to be seen from several mi / km. A distant ship would be hard to resolve, and hard to distinguish from various other objects.

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DCHindley
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Re: Ghost ships?

Post by DCHindley » Sun May 24, 2015 6:22 am

lpetrich wrote:A certain bit of present-day mythology has inspired me to ask about ghost ships or what might be called Unidentified Sailing Objects.

I checked on Ghost ship (Wikipedia), and it had a lot of entries on real abandoned ships. I checked on its "Folklore, legends and mythology" section, and after two undated entries are some ghost ships recorded from the eighteenth century, the Lady Lovibond, the Ghost Ship of Northumberland Strait, and the most famous one of all, the Flying Dutchman (Wikipedia).

I find it hard to believe that people only started seeing ghost ships in the 18th cy., but I don't know where to look for older ghost-ship lore. It would be interesting to find out how far back ghost ships go. My guess would be to when people started building ships with sails large enough to be seen from several mi / km. A distant ship would be hard to resolve, and hard to distinguish from various other objects.
So, we are dealing then with mythical ghost shops, and not ancient examples of the SS Marine Sulphur Queen or similar.

I suppose that in a Typhoon or Hurricane, the winds could flip the vessel over. Some of the crew may survive, and cling to the hull as long as it floats (it is wood after all). I would think that the sail will either break off or be submerged, which makes it a wreck, not an unpiloted "ghost" ship. Yet if no other ship happens upon the wreck to rescue the survivors, the fate of the crew will always remain a mystery.

If the winds were strong enough, the entire crew could be blown overboard and drowned, as in the earliest days most ships were uncovered above the rowing deck. In this case the mast may be erect (although I suppose no sail would be left unfurled) but to the observer on another vessel, it is ship piloted by "ghosts". This kind of experience, which must have happened a couple times a year in any one coastal settlement, becomes a kernel around which myth might accrete. I think we have examples of ancient marine vessels (or floating craft) going back to 3000 BCE or earlier.

DCH

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lpetrich
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Re: Ghost ships?

Post by lpetrich » Sun May 24, 2015 8:47 am

DCHindley wrote:So, we are dealing then with mythical ghost shops, and not ancient examples of the SS Marine Sulphur Queen or similar.
That ship had sank while leaving behind only a little bit of debris.
I suppose that in a Typhoon or Hurricane, the winds could flip the vessel over. ...
It doesn't even have to be that: just a big enough storm -- Capsizing - Wikipedia -- turned on its side or turned over.

For before recent centuries, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a strong risk of never coming back from a sea voyage. Some shipfuls of non-returnees may well have inspired some legendary ghost ships.

Shipwreck in Art and Literature: Images and Interpretations from Antiquity to the Present Day (Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature): Carl Thompson: 9780415643627: Amazon.com: Books

Homer's Odyssey refers to Odysseus surviving two shipwrecks. In the New Testament, Paul survives a shipwreck in Acts 27. The Book of Jonah has some sailors averting a shipwreck by tossing Jonah overboard.

History of navigation - Wikipedia -- mentioning two main methods: navigation by landmark and celestial navigation. Periplus - Wikipedia is about navigation guidebooks in antiquity.

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lpetrich
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Re: Ghost ships?

Post by lpetrich » Tue May 26, 2015 11:18 pm

Another source of Unidentified Sailing Objects: Fata Morgana (mirage) - Wikipedia It is a kind of mirage that can look like castles suspended in the air. The name is from the Italian version of "Morgan le Fay", the name of a sorceress who appears in Arthurian lore. The "le Fay" part is Old French for "the Fairy". So she's Morgan the Fairy.

She was described as making those castles in the air, presumably to play with the minds of sailors.

The Wikipedia article links the Fata Morgana to the Flying Dutchman, suggesting that this kind of mirage can have the appearance of a ghost ship.

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Re: Ghost ships?

Post by Peter Kirby » Wed May 27, 2015 3:38 pm

Good stuff, LP.
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lpetrich
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Re: Ghost ships?

Post by lpetrich » Thu May 28, 2015 1:33 pm

Thanx.

I checked out Homer's Odyssey, and Odysseus not only survives two shipwrecks, he invents a cover story for himself that involves an additional shipwreck.


Kyrenia ship - Wikipedia -- its remains were found near Kyrenia, Cyprus. It was in use for several years, and it revealed an abundance of evidence of repairs. Some people commissioned an imitation, the Kyrenia II, as an exercise in experimental archeology: build an imitation of an ancient ship and see how it performs.

More on the Kyrenia II: Great-Moments-Tzalas-reduced.pdf (some pictures), Kyrenia II, 27.pdf - Katzev-1990.pdf (evaluation of the ship's performance), INA-Newsletter-Nov.-1986.pdf (more details, like dimensions).

The Kyrenia II duplicates a common configuration of ships in antiquity: one square-rigged sail, a sail suspended from a horizontal spar or yard. Though the yard would often be oriented sideways, the typical square-rigged orientation, one of the pictures shows the yard in the fore-and-aft direction. Thus making the sail act like fore-and-aft sails.

Dimensions:
Length: 13.76 m
Beam (max width): 4.2 m
Draft (depth): 0.8 m
Freeboard (hull height): 1.3 m
Yard length: 12 m
Yard height: 10.5 m
Mast height: 12.5 m
Cargo weight(?): 25 metric tons
Typical speed: 2.9 knots

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lpetrich
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Re: Ghost ships?

Post by lpetrich » Thu May 28, 2015 2:12 pm

Olympias (trireme) - Wikipedia
Length: 36.9 m
Beam: 5.5 m
Draft: 1.25 m
Top Deck: 1.4 m
Sails: two square-rigged ones on separate masts (foremast, mainmast)
Foremast:
Yard length: 7 m
Yard height: 7 m
Mast height: 7.5 m
Mainmast:
Yard length: 13 m
Yard height: 11 m
Mast height: 12 m
(measured from drawing in Trireme Olympias - YouTube)

Havhingsten fra Glendalough - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia is a replica of the second-largest known Viking longship. I won't try to dig up its dimensions, but it's close to the aforementioned trireme.

Santa María (ship) - Wikipedia One of the replicas of it has a mainmast height of 15.9 m, not much more than for the three ships mentioned earlier.

I'd mentioned all these ship dimensions so I can estimate their visibility.

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lpetrich
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Re: Ghost ships?

Post by lpetrich » Thu May 28, 2015 3:38 pm

So until recent centuries, the largest ships had a sail height of about 12 m and a sail width of about 12 m -- that's about 40 ft each way. That means that a ship would have a 30' angular size, that of the full Moon, over a distance of 1.2 km, and would be barely resolvable at 3' at about 12 km.

Now for the Earth's curvature. It makes an obstruction height of about (distance)^2/(2*(Earth radius)). For a distance of 12 km, this gives a height of 12 m. Refraction will make a ship visible at longer distances than what this simple geometry indicates.

I did some more searching for "ghost ship", and I find it hard to find legendary ghost ships much older than the most famous one, the Flying Dutchman. I found a lot of hits for real ships that were abandoned or wrecked. I didn't find anything about abandoned but still floating ships in antiquity, however. Ships like the Mary Celeste - Wikipedia (1872).

books.google.com also has a peek into "Shipwreck in Art and Literature", and I looked at what it had to say about classical Greco-Roman ones. A lot of literary stylization, including physically absurd stylization like opposing winds. Seneca the Younger in Book 5 of Natural Questions argues that opposing winds are absurd, but OK as poetic license, as writing for effect.

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Re: Ghost ships?

Post by Jennifer Groff » Mon Aug 03, 2015 10:13 pm

Not only that there are lots of others too.

The Kaz II, 2008
The Kaz II set sail with 3 people, food, and ammunition. The ship was found 3 days later off of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef with no crew on board and a half-empty cup of coffee and a working laptop on the table.

SS Baychimo, 1931
The SS Baychimo was on its way to Vancouver when a blizzard trapped the ship in ice. Seeking shelter the crew abandoned ship, but when they returned the ship had broken free. The Baychimo vanished into the Arctic and the last known sighting occurred in 1969.

SS Ourang Medan, 1948
The SS Ourang Medan is what you think of when you hear the term “ghost ship.” The story starts with SOS signals followed by the message, “all officers including the captain are dead.” When the American merchant ship, the Silver Star, found the Ourang Medan it was floating in the Strait of Malacca with everyone on board dead. After evacuating because of smoke coming out of the cargo hold, the Medan exploded.

Carroll A. Deering, 1921
The Carroll was sailing on the Outer Shoals of North Carolina on its way to Rio when discovered with food laid out ready for eating, but no crew on board. Many have speculated that pirates attacked the ship because of damage to the ship’s hull.

MV Joyita, 1955
The Joyita set sail from Apia with 25 passengers and crew but never made its destination. It was found a month later adrift in the South Pacific more than 500 miles away from its route.

USS Cyclops, 1918
The USS Cyclops was one of the four Proteus-class colliers built for the United States Navy before World War I. The ship was lost without a trace in the Bermuda triangle. There were 306 crew members on board and still remains the single largest loss of life in U.S. Naval history not directly involving combat.

USS Conestoga, 1921
The USS Conestoga was an ocean-going tug used by the U.S. Navy. It was last seen sailing toward American Samoa with 52 people on board in 1921.

High Aim 6, 2003
Found floating off the coast of Western Australia in 2003 with no clues to what happened. On board the ship was 3 tons of rotting tuna, 7 toothbrushes, food for the crew, fuel, but no crew members found.

Lyubov Orlova, 2013
The Lyubov Orlova was once an Antarctic luxury cruise ship. In 2010, Canada impounded the ship and took it out of service. The ship was sold for scrap, but a day after leaving port the towline snapped and Lyubov Orlova drifted off. If you see this ship floating keep your distance because it is full of diseased, cannibalistic rats.

Marine Sulphur Queen, 1963
The ship was an impressive, 504 feet long, tanker converted to carry molten sulfur that disappeared off the southern coast of Florida. During the 348,00 square mile search, the only items found were a fog horn and a life-preserver with the ship’s name on it.

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Re: Ghost ships?

Post by Clive » Mon Aug 03, 2015 10:32 pm

Evidence for where people sailed and traveled turns up in the strangest ways.

Francis Drake brought back from NW America a fish knife. It is now in the British Museum. It has glass embedded in its handle.

The glass was made in Venice. The glass beads had been traded across Russia, Siberia, Alaska and Canada.

Some skeletons of Scandinavian mice, dating to about 1000 CE have been found on Madiera....
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