I didn’t mean for the time between posts about ghost ships to go for 2 months, but apparently time flies when you’re not paying attention. So here I am with the follow-up to the first ghost ships post. It seems as we come closer to the 21st century, the phrase ghost ship has taken on new meaning. Nowadays it simply means a ship which turns up empty with no immediate explanations of the crew’s whereabouts. No longer do we encounter spiritual apparitions of ships, but actual vessels that can be boarded and investigated. The two ships for this part 2 fit into this newer category of ghost ship…
While most ghost ship stories have origins before the turn of the 20th Century, the Carroll A. Deering is an exception. After an encounter with the Cape Lookout Lightship on January 28, 1921, it was found run aground three days later, completely abandoned.
On February 4, another Coast Guard cutter, the Manning, arrived with the tug Rescue. The Deering was finally boarded at 10:30 a.m. by the wrecking crew, which stayed aboard until 4:30 p.m.. On board they found the vessel shipshape, but strangely deserted and quiet except for the usual creaks. Curiously, all articles belonging to the officers and crew were missing. The ship’s papers, chronometer, log, and all navigating instruments including the ship’s clock were also gone. In the galley they found certain foods soaking in preparation for the next day’s meal. The captain’s room was also in an interesting condition. It appeared by three different sets of boots that three men had actually shared the cabin before the end. The spare bed was also slept in. The large map, recording the ship’s movements, had been marked since the 23rd of January in another hand then Wormell’s distinctive handwriting. And as the crew had informed the Lightship, the wreckers noticed that the Deering had lost her anchors. Make-shift anchors, however, had been found in their place. Red lights had been run up the mast, an indication she was derelict or out of control.
Unfortunately, the Deering could not be moved from her spot and was subsequently destroyed. An investigation followed, taken up by 5 different departments of the federal government. Then Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, took special interest when it was discovered that nine ships of various nationalities disappeared around the same time and area.
The most prominent theory of what happened to the Deering leaned toward the crew being involved in illegal rum-running. Another idea had to do with piracy; namely Russian piracy. A third idea was simply mutiny, but unfortunately it seems no one explanation ever really stuck because none of them could explain all of the disappearances. None of the explanations has ever been able to quite satisfy everyone who has ever investigated the mystery.
A more modern tale has a reasonable explanation if not altogether “above board”. In 2006, the Bel Amica was discovered off the coast of the Italian island of Sardinia completely abandoned with no identifying marks or items on board save for a plaque bearing the name ‘Bel Amica’. It was a schooner-type vessel unlike any seen in Italy and records showed no such vessel registered in Italy.
The owner was later found and explained that he’d planned to return to the vessel after taking care of a family emergency at his home in Luxembourg, but the Italian press felt it was more likely that he was trying to avoid the heavy taxation on luxury vessels.