Titanic Musings:Of Titanic Fires and Ships That Never Were

Titanic Leaving Queenstown 11 April 1912. Believed to be the last photograph of ship before it sank.
Public Domain

Most Titanic researchers know that there was a serious coal fire when the ship set sail. Bunker fires are not new but they can be extremely difficult to deal considering the high heat that is often generated as a result. The heat can result in visible damage to the ship and even result in causing the steel to loose some of its strength. This was seen on 9-11 when jet fuel burning at high temperatures weakened the steel causing the building collapse.

In the case of Titanic though, it has always been a question whether or not the coal fire had some connection to Titanic’s demise. Senan Melony certainly thinks so in a documentary. As reported by The Independent, Melony argues that the fire caused damage to the hull which made it less strong when it hit the iceberg. And he argues that White Star president J. Bruce Ismay told the ship officers not to mention the fire to the passengers. Damage was visible and to prevent it from being seen Titanic was backed into Southampton. Malony believes Titanic ought never to have been put to sea because of the fire damage. It was not the cause of Titanic’s demise but a contributing factor in it.

The Flying Dutchman, Circa 1896
Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847–1917)
Public Domain

SS Ourang Medan
The SS Ourang Medan is a ghost ship that was shipwrecked in the Dutch East Indies in 1948 and its crew died under mysterious circumstances. The story was reported in a Dutch-Indonesian newspaper in three accounts from February through March 1948. While two of the later articles mention the name of the ship as Ourang Medan, the first one did not. The incident was reported as taking place 400 nautical miles southeast of the Marshall Islands. A survivor who made it to an atoll told his story before dying. He told a missionary the ship was carrying sulphuric acid and was not properly stored. The poisonous fumes killed off must of the crew and it later sank. The ship was sailing to Costa Rica from an unknown Chinese port and because of the cargo was avoiding authorities.  More recent research found other news articles from the Associated Press and from some U.K. newspapers. The location is different as is the SOS message. Interesting is that the source is the same: Silvio Scherzi of Trieste.

Many speculative writers (some who dabble in the Bermuda Triangle or supernatural/paranormal reporting)reported the Ourang Medan as well. The story somewhat parallels another famous story: the Mary Celeste. The Celeste was found abandoned on 5 Dec 1872 by the Dei Gratia. The ship had ample provisions and belongings were undisturbed. But the crew was never seen again. Over time false details and fantasy were added. Sensationalist writers talked up the story using supernatural angles or connecting it to the mythical Bermuda Triangle (it was found well outside that area). After a salvage hearing in Gibraltar, there was no definitive cause as to why the ship was found abandoned. And so the mystery remains.

The Orang Medan likely never existed since proof of its existence has never been found. Most likely it was a story embellished likely from the smallest sliver of truth to generate media interest. Unlike the Celeste, which is a true mystery of the sea, the Orang Medan is an episode of alternate science reality show likely on the SyFy network.


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