The Mysterious Ship Disappearances

Ships are declared lost and assumed wrecked after a certain period of disappearance. The disappearance of ship usually means that all hands are lost. Without any witnesses or survivors, the mystery around the disappearance of ships inspired many legends, works of fiction and the creation of paranormal zones such as the Bermuda Triangle or the Devil's Sea.
Many of the disappearances happened before the wireless telegraphy was used in navigation applications. Certain disasters such as collisions, rogue waves, military strikes or piracy acs could also prevent the crew from sending a distress call.

The advancement of radar technology and today's Global Positioning System increase the chances of locating a distressed vessel.

Most vessels listed as missing disappeared over a vast search area or deep water making any search and recovery efforts extremly expensive. Even today with sonar and wrecking technologies such an operation could not be compensated by salvaged valuables.

Madagascar, 1853.

The Madagascar, the second Blackwall Frigate, was a large British merchant ship that went missing in 1853 on a voyage from Melbourne to London.
Throughout her 16-year career, one-eight share in the vessel was held by her first master Captain William Harrison Walker. The rest of the shares was held by other various members of the Green family. The ship used to carry passengers, troops and other cargoes between England and India.In addition to the standard crew, the ship carries many boys that were trained to be officers for the merchant marine.
During the Victorian Gold Rush, the Madagascar sailed to Melbourne carrying emigrants. In Melbourne fourteen crewmembers left the ship and only three replacements were signed on. The ship was loaded with a cargo of rice, wool and two tonnes of gold. It also took about 110 passengers for the trip back to London.
On 10 August 1853, police arrested a bushranger John Francis just as the ship was prepairing to sail. The next day two more passengers were arrested and the ship was held in Melbourne until 12 August. After it sailed off she was never seen again.

As the ship never arrived to London, many theories arose, including the possibility of fire on board, a ship hitting an iceberg and even that it was seized by criminal elements of the passengers. The last theory states that the ship was scuttled after it was robbed and the remaining passengers and crew were murdered.

SS Arctic, 1854.

The SS Arctic was a side-wheeler that sank on September 27, 1854 after colliding with the French iron screw steamer SS Vesta.
Among the total loss of near 400 souls, there were 92 of 153 officers and men aboard, and all of the women and children passengers.
Today a large monument stands in Greenwood Cemetery, in Brooklyn, New York, dedicated to all those who lost their lives in this tragedy.
After the collision, the Arctic set course toward land. The captain of the French vessel was initialy upset that the other ship decided to leave them and not to help them. As the crew of the French vessel dumbed their cargo to the sea, the ship started to float.
When the French vessel reached land, the captain wondered what had happened to the Arctic. He was told that the Arctic did not make it back to land.

SS Waratah, 1909.

The SS Waratah was a steamship built by Barclay Curle & Co in Whiteinch, Glasgow. It got its name from the emblem flower of New South Wales, Australia. It served as a passenger and cargo liner. It had luxurious quarters with 100 first class cabins and eight state rooms. As well as these luxurious quarters, Waratah was intended to serve the strong emigrant trade from Europe to Australia. On the journey to Australia, her cargo holds were converted to large dormitories with holding capacity of 700 passengers. On the return journey the ship carried cargo, mainly foodstuffs. She was equipped to carry refrigerated cargo and could carry foodstuffs for a year at sea, she also had a desalination plant which produced 5,500 gallons of fresh water each day. She did not carry a radio, but this was not unusual for the time.

On 27 April 1909, the SS Waratah set sail for her second trip to Australia. The trip was uneventful and on 1 July 1909 she set out on the return journey. She was bound for the South African ports of Durban and Cape Town and was then to return to London. 

The Waratah reached the South African port of Durban and was sailing to Cape Town. On 27 July, it passed the Clan McIntyre and later that day the weather quickly deteriorated.
The Waratah was supposed to reach Cape Town on 29 July but it never arrived at its destination, and to this day, no trace of the ship was found.

Aurora, 1917.

The SY Aurora was a steam yacht built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1876. Her intended use was whaling in the norhern seas so she was built to withstand the harsh weather and ice. That strength proved useful for Antarctic exploration and between 1911 and 1917 she made five trips to the Antarctic.

The Aurora disappeared in 1918, when she sailed from Newcastle, New South Wales for Iquique, Chile carrying a cargo of coal. The ship went missing on 2 January 1918, she is believed to be a casualty of World War I.

USS Conestoga,1920.

The second USS Conestoga (AT-54) was originally a civilian ocean-going tug. In the World War I it was commissioned by the U.S. Navy on 10 November 1917.
During the War, Conestoga carried out towing duties along the Atlantic, transported guns and supplies and escorted convoys.

In the late 1920, the Conestoga was assigned to the Pacific. On March 25 1921 the Conestoga sailed from Pearl Harbor to Tutuila, American Samoa, planning to take up assignment as station ship.

That was the last time Conestoga was ever seen. Despite extensive search operations conducted, the only trace of the ship that was found was on of her lifeboats.

SS Hewitt, 1921.

SS Hewitt was a steel hulled bulk freighter built in 1914. She was used during World War I to deliver sulfur vital to ammunition and chemical industry.
After the war, she was used by Union Sulfur Co.

On January 20, 1921, she left Sabine, Texas under the command of Capt. Hans Jakob Hansen. Bound for Portland, Maine, she was to stop in Boston. On January 25, she made her regular radio call and reported nothing unusual. That was the last time she sent any radio signals, and from that day she remains missing. An extensive search efforts along her route found nothing.


USS Capelin, 1943.

The USS Capelin was a Balao class submarine built in 1943. Capelin sailed from New London on September 3 1943 and conducted her first war patrol. On this patrol in the Molucca Sea, she sunk a Japanese cargo ship on 11 November.

The Capelin retuned to Darwin, Australia for repairs on its defective conning tower hathc mechanism, and several other flaws. After the repairs were completed she set out on her second patrol on 17 November 1943. She was to leave the area of patrol on 6 December, but she never returned.

Enemy minefields are known to have existed in the area of Capelin's patrol so it is possible that the submarine was lost due to a mine explosion. No wreckage was ever found and the Capelin remains on the listo of ships lost without a known cause.