top of page

The Tragedy of S.S. Ourang Medan: True Mystery of the Ship that Vanished in The Straits of Malacca

S.S. Ourang Medan

Human beings have always sailed even before they could fly or go to outer space. Hence, through the years, we have witnessed many tales and legends that have passed on to each generation, about the various stories revolving around sea monsters and pirates that dwell in the sea.

The pirates of Caribbean series have created a different kind of hype when it comes to the various tales that surround the ships and seas. Thanks to the series, we are well aware of the stories of the Flying Dutchmen or the Wailing Lady. However, one such tale revolves around the mysterious tragedy of The S.S. Ourang Medan.

Code from an Unknown Source:

Around late July 1948, Malaysia received a very chilling transmission from an unidentified source. They received the transmission in two parts, each part was encoded with Morse code, and they could not easily be deciphered.

Furthermore, Malaysia was unable to locate the source of the message nor the vessel. Luckily, few ships were able to decode the transmission, but they were horrified by its content. The transmission contained a chilling message which stated that the Captain and the crew were dead.

Furthermore, it stated that there were no survivors on board. Finally, the message concluded with the sender stating that he was next in line to die. This spooked the receivers of the message.

The Ships received no other transmission after that. Two ships, both Americans picked up the transmission, and they felt compelled to investigate the source. With the help of the Dutch and British listening post, they were able to triangulate the location of the vessel. It was identified as the Dutch freighter Ourang Medan.

Investigation of the Crew death:

An American Ship, Silver Star immediately headed towards the freighter to investigate the distress signal. They located the stricken Ourang Medan, where they found no signs of life. All attempts to contact the crew also failed, prompting the Captain of Silver Star to send in a search party.

The crew was greeted by a horrifying sight. The deck of Ourang Medan was littered by the bodies of the crew, with their hands posed in a fighting position, and their eyes wide open. Even the Captain was found in his usual place, on his bridge.

Even the sender of the message was found in the same horrifying position. The remaining crew was found in The Wheelhouse and the Chat house. Not even the ship’s dog was spared.

Explosion of the Ship:

The whole ship was thoroughly searched. The rescue crew soon found something weird. Though the temperature was above 100’F, the crew felt an ominous chilling breeze. The crew returned to The Silver Star, and they decided to salvage the ship.

However, the decision was taken away from them, when they discovered smoke coming from below the decks, specifically near the Cargo Deck 4. Before they could attempt to drag it, the ship immediately exploded with so much force, it was flung in the air before sinking into the seabed.

S.S. Ourang Medan

Now remained the mystery behind the death of the crew and its sudden explosion. The first official report made by The US coastal guard stated that the crew was found with their faces turned upwards towards the sun and their mouths were wide open as if they were frightened by something.


Now many theories circulated with regards to the crew’s death. Some state that the ship was carrying some dangerous cargo which posed a threat to the crew themselves. Many suspected the ship of carrying biological weapons manufactured by a Japanese scientist.

Others have speculated that the ship was probably carrying hazardous chemicals such as Potassium cyanide and nitroglycerin. This theory states that the seawater mixed with these chemicals might have resulted in the release of toxic gas which killed the crew of the ship. Later the seawater reacted to the nitroglycerin and that caused the explosion.

Experts also suggested that carbon monoxide poisoning due to a smouldering fire caused by a malfunction in the ship’s boiler room might have caused the crew of the ship to slowly suffocate to death, even before they could escape.

However, many arguments have raised, due to the fact that some people believe that Ourang Medan was never registered and hence it never existed. But the Silver Star was definitely real, except it was operating under a separate name. Contrary to this belief, many people have stated that the ship was registered In Sumatra. However, they were unable to prove this since they could not find the records.

The truth behind the death of the crew members of S.S. Ourang Medan still remains a mystery. Many even blamed fictional tales such as The Black Pearl, for the crew’s frightened state. It all boils down to the question of whether the tragedy of Ourang Medan was a genuine story or merely a tale designed to scare off other sailors.

Read more such interestingly mysterious incidents


Be the First to Expand Your
Intellectual Horizon!

bottom of page