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“I die”: The enduring mystery of the SS Ourang Medan

PortandTerminal.com, October 31, 2020

The enduring mystery of the of SS Ourang Medan who’s crew sent a terrifying SOS message before all being found dead with their faces frozen in horror – fact or fiction?

If you Google “Ourang Medan” you’ll get about 165,000 returns, almost all of which outline the 70-year-old mystery of a ship that may or may not have existed.

According to the story, at some point in or around June 1947, two American vessels navigating the Strait of Malacca, the City of Baltimore and Silver Star, among others, picked up distress messages from a Dutch merchant ship the SS Ourang Medan.

The Morse code message read, “All officers including the captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead… I die,” The message was received by the crew of a nearby ship, the Silver Star from a signaller.

All officers including the captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead… I die,”

The Silver Star was the American ship closest to the Ourang Medan. The captain agreed to find the Ourang Medan and offer help.

When those on the Silver Star found the ship and went on board, they were reportedly greeted by a nightmarish sight. The entire ship was littered with corpses, all of who had bulging eyes, and terrified expressions on their faces. Their mouths were also said to be open as if they were screaming, and their arms were outstretched as if they were reaching for something. None showed signs of injury that could have caused their deaths.

The story goes that when the Silver Star tried to tow the ship to port, a fire broke out, and the resulting explosion caused the ship to sink. No trace of it has been found since then, with many even questioning if it existed — there is no record of the SS Ourang Medan in Lloyd’s Shipping Register, and no registration records for it could be found in any country, including the Netherlands. We consider that a major strike against the legend’s veracity.

Nevertheless, the story has persisted for over 70 years and has no shortage of conspiracies surrounding it to this day.

Was the ship real?

Conspiracy theorists believe that several countries worked together to cover up the Ourang Medan incident. For instance, the incident story happened in either June 1947 or February 1948. No one is sure though precisely when. And then the Coast Guard didn’t report the Ourang Medan story until May 1954.

These though are reportedly the Coast Guard’s documents relating to the incident:

Then there’s the fact that while the identity of the Silver Star, the vessel who’s crew boarded the Ourang Medan, has been established, its ship logs do not show any record of a rescue attempt involving the Ourang Medan. Discovering a ship filled with dead crew members seems like an odd thing to leave out of your ship logs.

What caused the mysterious death of its crew?

Reportedly a photo of a body discovered on the Ourang Medan. The body, if real, looks to be of a woman – an unlikely crew member on a vessel from that time and region in the late 1940’s

Some believe that the Ourang Medan was transporting a top-secret chemical weapon. Remember that this incident reportedly happened soon after WW2 so that hypothesis is seemingly plausible given its time and place in history.

Other theories are that either pirates or aliens killed the Ourang Medan crew. We can find no evidence of either in the written records. The Google reports though make for fun reading.


The Ourang Medan mystery is a ton of fun and a bit of rabbit hole once you go down it. Fact or fiction? You decide.

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