Ghost Ships no. 3 

Vessels appearing in legends and folklore

The Caleuche

This mythical ghost ship is an important figure in Chilean culture. The tale goes that a beautiful white sailing ship sails around the island of Chiloe at night. No crew is ever seen, but the vessel is always full of lights with sounds of a party on board and some believe it can navigate under water. The apparition soon disappears leaving no trace of its presence. Legend claims that the crew are ghosts of drowned men, brought to the ship by two mermaids and their brother. Once on board they continue their lives for a short time, before returning to the sea.

The Palatine Light – a.k.a. Princess Augusta

The legend tells how, in 1738, a German ship carrying immigrants to Philadelphia ran aground during a snow storm and sank near Block Island, south of Rhode Island in the USA. There are no records of the sinking but many sightings were reported in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The poet John Greenleaf Whittier immortalised the story in his poem "The Palatine", written in 1867. He writes of greedy wreckers tearing the ship to pieces, burning it and ignoring the drowning crew. He describes how, on moonless nights, the flaming wreck can still be seen and skippers reef their sails in spite of the calm. Another version describes how the islanders tried hard to rescue the crew, and both conflicting stories mention a female passenger refusing to leave the vessel. There are those who claim that her screams can still be heard from the ship. Occasionally locals report of seeing a burning ship on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Lady Lovibond

The superstition that a woman on board will bring bad luck is said to be the reason for the wrecking of the schooner Lady Lovibond in 1748. According to legend the captain, Simon Reed, and his bride, Annette, were celebrating their marriage with a cruise to Oporto in Portugal. The first mate, John Rivers, had been a suitor for Annette's hand. While the marriage celebrations were going on below deck, Rivers, in a fit of jealousy, attacked the sailor at the helm, seized control of the vessel and sailed her into the perilous Goodwin Sands, off the coast of Kent, killing everyone on board. The vessel is said to reappear every fifty years as a ghost ship and the sighting in 1848 was so convincing that lifeboats were sent out from Deal in the hope of rescuing survivors. Other sightings tell of a phantom vessel giving off an eerie green glow.

The Ghost Ship of Northumberland Strait

The first sighting of this schooner, sailing off the east coast of Canada, dates back to 1786 and since then the phantom vessel with its white sails engulfed in flames has been reported by eye witnesses numerous times during 220 years. Sightings are usually in autumn, before a northeast wind and many believe them to be a warning of approaching storm. Some rescues have been attempted. In 1900 a group of sailors, in a small rowing boat, tried to reach the vessel, only to find it had disappeared with no trace. Eyewitnesses describe smoke rising from the deck and the crew climbing the masts to get away from the blaze, only to be engulfed in flames as the sails caught fire. During the sightings strange occurrences happen, such as guns heard from out at sea and a ball of fire seen in the sky. No one has been able to offer a foolproof explanation, although some have tried. One theory is that the apparent vessel is simply a bank of fog reflecting the moonlight. The story gained fame through a song, written by the Canadian singer-songwriter Lennie Gallant and included in his album "Breakwater". The song, "Tales of the Phantom Ship", describes the "frightening sight" of the blazing vessel, whose name no one knows.

Young Teazer

In the War of 1812, the privateer schooner, "Young Teazer", after being chased by British warships that she was attacking, was reportedly blown up by a member of her crew, known for his erratic behaviour. The deadly explosion killed most of the crew and the hull of the vessel, gutted but still partly afloat, was surrounded by floating bodies and wreckage. This gruesome end and the many stories it inspired, made the "Young Teazer" into a well known legendary figure in the folk lore of Nova Scotia. One of these tales tells of the ghost ship "Teazer Light" which appears in Mahone Bay near the site of the explosion and often on its anniversary. Several versions of the story appear in the book, "Bluenose Ghosts", written by the folklorist Helen Creighton.

Eliza Battle

This Tombigbee River steamboat worked during the 1850's and was destroyed by fire in 1858. It was the greatest disaster in the river's history, with around 33 people killed. Carrying cotton bales on her way down river, it was discovered that some were alight. The fire soon spread out of control as a strong wind fanned the flames and the passengers, dressed only in their night clothes, jumped into the freezing water to escape. Many perished, although some saved themselves by floating on the bales of cotton. The vessel sank to the bottom of the river where it still remains. Numerous sightings of the vessel took it into Alabama folklore and it has been the inspiration of many short stories including "The Phantom Steamboat of the Tombigbee". The sightings seem to happen on cold windy nights, with the ship being engulfed in flame. Sightings are said to foretell imminent disaster for vessels using the river.

HMS Eurydice

The 26-gun Royal Navy corvette was a fast frigate with a shallow draught, designed specifically to operate in shallow waters. After over 20 year's seagoing service, she was refitted in 1877 as a training ship and sailed from Portsmouth for a three-month tour of the West Indies on 13th November 1877, beginning her return journey in the following March. After a fast crossing of the Atlantic she was caught in a heavy snow storm off the Isle of Wight, capsised and sank. Of the 319 crew and trainees only 2 survived, some being carried down with the ship and others dying from exposure in the freezing waters. One witness of this tragic event was a 4 year old Winston Churchill, living in Ventnor with his family. Later that year the wreck refloated, but was so badly damaged that she had to be broken up. All that remains is her bell, preserved in St Paul's Church, Shanklin. Ironically she was replaced by a second training ship, the HMS Juno, later renamed HMS Atalanta, which disappeared (believed to have been lost in a storm) in 1880 with the loss of 281 lives. The phantom Eurydice has had frequent sightings over the years. In the 1930s a royal naval submarine apparently took evasive action to avoid a collision with the ship, only to have it disappear from view. Later there was a notable sighting by Prince Edward in 1998, who saw a three-masted ship off the Isle of Wight during filming for a television series.


In 1928 this five-masted barque (the largest sailing ship of her time) was being used as a training vessel for cadets. She was last heard of on December 21st whilst on route from Buenos Aires to Australia with 75 people on board including 26 crew and 45 cadets. They had taken a shipload of chalk and bagged cement to Buenos Aires, unloaded it and were expecting to transport a shipment of wheat back to Europe. As no paying commissions were available the captain decided to leave for Australia without a cargo. The last that was heard of them was when the vessel reported being about 900 miles from Tristan da Cunha and that all was well. She was never heard of again. A lengthy search revealed nothing and her disappearance has become one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time. Theories have been put forward to explain her disappearance; striking an iceberg in the dark or in fog, or capsising in strong winds. After her disappearance there were sightings of a five-masted phantom ship by Chilean fishermen in the area and from the crew of an Argentine freighter. Further sightings came in from Easter Island and the Peruvian coast and later some wreckage bearing the name Kobenhavn was reportedly found off West Australia. In 1934 a report was published that a cadet's diary from the vessel had been found in a bottle on Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic. It implied that the vessel had been hit by icebergs, destroyed and abandoned, the crew having taken to the lifeboats. One year later human remains and those of a lifeboat were found along the southwest coast of Africa. There was speculation that these might have come from the Kobenhavn, but no proof.

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