In February of 1947, near the Indonesian coastline, a series of strange distress calls were picked up by numerous ships and listening posts; each received dispatch more alarming than the next. The calls came from the Dutch freighter known as the S.S. Ourang Medan and it was clear to all who received her messages something terrible had happened aboard. “All officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” This was the first post received by rescue, then what followed was a undecipherable series of morse code and finally the last message: “I die”.
Through triangulation, the position of the ship was discovered within the straits of Matacca, and the nearest rescue ship, an American boat known as the 6,507th Silver Star, rushed to the aid of the stricken vessel. It took them many hours to reach the Ourang, but once the shop was in sight they hailed the Dutch vessel with whistle calls and hand signals, but recieved no response. The boat sat unmanned and motionless on the water as if she had no crew to direct her at all. Carefully, the officers of the Silver Star approached and boarded the vessel. What greeted them was a horrible and frightening sight.
The bodies of all officers and crew were found dead below the ships deck, their eyes open and faces upturned, looking towards the sky. Some men were discovered with their arms outstretched, a look of horror frozen on their faces, though there were no visible signs of injury on the bodies. Even the ship’s dog was found dead, teeth bared, sneering at an unseen danger.
The rescue crew pressed on towards the boiler room, and as they approached they noted a distinct chill in the air, though the temperature was reaching nearly 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The crew of the Silver Star decided their best course of action would be to retreat and tow the Ourang back to the port where they could better distinguish what had occurred on the lost ship.
All members of the Silver Star headed back to their own ship and prepared the line. Before they were able to get under way, smoke began choking from the hull of the S.S. Ourang Medan. In a mad rush to save themselves, the crew members of Star cut the tow line, hurrying to create distance. With a massive blast, the Ourang exploded into flams and sunk to the bottom of the ocean, leaving it’s exact fate a mystery to this day.
To date, there have been many theories about what happened on the Ourang that February night. Some believe the ship and crew were involved in the illegal smuggling of chemical substances such as potassium cyanide and nitro-glycerine; possibly even war-time nerve agents. If this were the case, sea water might have entered the ship’s hold, reacting with the toxic cargo, which in turn would have released toxic gasses and carbon monoxide into the air. This would have been more then enough to kill a ship full of men. It’s possible that the salt water could have reacted with the nitro-glycerine causing the reported fire and subsequent explosion. This is, of course, just speculation, as no one is sure that the ship was ever carrying chemicals at all.
There are still others who believe the ship and crew were victims to some form of paranormal attack, a theory that has become popular with many UFO enthusiasts over the years. After all, there appeared to be no natural cause of death, only the looks of terror left frozen on the crew’s faces. Some of the bodies where reported to have been found pointing up towards the sky. Might they have been pointing towards an confusing and unknown enemy?
In recent years, interested writers have noted their inability to find any mention of this strange story in Lloyd’s Shipping Registry, and no registration records for a ship by the name of the S.S. Ourang Medan could be located. Interestingly enough, the rescue ship, Silver Star has, in fact, been established with some certainty, and though the registry for the Ourang has yet to be found, what was discovered was a report dating back to May 1952 proceedings of the merchant Marine Council. It states: “…their frozen faces were upturned to the sun, the mouths were gaping open and eyes staring…”
The S.S. it seems is a true mystery, with scraps of fact coloured in with theory. Were the men poisoned by the cargo they carried? Or did they come under attack, alone and isolated, by some strange and unexplained force? Perhaps the answers to all these questions are sitting at the bottom of the ocean within the straits of Matacca. What real evidence the story does lend us is, in the end, enough to let us make up our own minds.