Underwater Pyramid: What is the Galilee Anomaly?

Recently, a team of researchers discovered a giant underwater pyramid beneath the Sea of Galilee. What is the Galilee Anomaly?

Underwater Pyramid: What is the Galilee Anomaly?

Underwater Pyramid: What is the Galilee Anomaly?
Description: Professor Aronnax and Captain Nemo visit the ruins of the lost world of Atlantis
Illustration by Alphonse de Neuville and Edouard Riou
Source: Wikimedia Commons

What is the Galilee Anomaly?

Well, it looks like we’ve got another Baltic Anomaly on our hands. Here are the details. During the summer of 2003, a sonar survey captured an image of a large cone-shaped structure in the southwest part of the Sea of Galilee. Almost ten years later, divers finally investigated the strange underwater pyramid.

They found “a conical stone pile built of large, natural, unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders” at a depth of 220 meters. The underwater pyramid rises 10 meters off the seafloor with a diameter of 70 meters. Incidentally, the individual boulders show no signs of human activity.

“Close inspection by scuba diving revealed that the structure is made of basalt boulders up to 1 m long with no apparent construction pattern. The boulders have natural faces with no signs of cutting or chiselling. Similarly, we did not find any sign of arrangement or walls that delineate this structure.” ~ Yitzhak Paz, Moshe Reshef, Zvi Ben-Avraham, Shmuel Marco, Gideon Tibor, and Dani Nadel, A Submerged Monumental Structure in the Sea of Galilee, Israel

Underwater Pyramid: Manmade or Artificial?

Although the boulders show no signs of being worked, the team is convinced this underwater pyramid is a manmade structure. The reason? It appears unnatural and other basalt boulders were not found in the area.

“The shape and composition of the submerged structure does not resemble any natural feature. We therefore conclude that it is man-made and might be termed a cairn. The boulders had to be transported at least a few hundred metres from the nearest basalt outcrop.” ~ Yitzhak Paz, Moshe Reshef, Zvi Ben-Avraham, Shmuel Marco, Gideon Tibor, and Dani Nadel, A Submerged Monumental Structure in the Sea of Galilee, Israel

They think the structure was built on dry land, possibly more than 4,000 years ago. This would match up with other megalithic architecture in the area. But while those ones were spared, the Galilee Anomaly was eventually washed over by the Sea of Galilee. Incidentally, the structure is located a mile north of the ancient city of Khirbet Kerak.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Galilee Anomaly, as I like it call it, is an exciting discovery. But I’m not fully convinced this underwater pyramid is manmade. Just because it appears unnatural doesn’t mean it is unnatural. I’ve touched on this in a previous article, namely how people tend to think certain angles, shapes, and rock formations can’t exist in nature.

“After all, right angles don’t exist in nature right? Wrong. The right angle, contrary to popular opinion, does exist in nature. It’s not some secret invention of mankind. It is just as likely to appear in nature as any other angle. However, nature shows no bias toward the right angle while mankind, on the other hand, makes extensive use of it. Thus, when we see right angles in nature, we’re inclined to immediately suspect artificial origin.” ~ David Meyer, The Baltic Anomaly: Is it Natural…or Artificial?

Also, the team has yet to conduct a full search of the underwater pyramid. There may yet be signs of a basalt outcropping in the area. Until the team conducts a full archaeological excavation, it will be impossible to know for sure.

Beale Codes: Solving an Unsolvable Code?

Between 1819 and 1821, Thomas Beale buried a giant treasure in Virginia. It has never been found. The key to its location lies in one of the most mysterious codes in history…the Beale Codes. But how does one go about solving an unsolvable cipher?

Beale Code #1

Beale Code #1
Source: Archive.org

The Mysterious Beale Treasure?

Last Friday, I posted the first story in a short series about the mysterious Beale Treasure. On Monday, I posted the second installment. Yesterday, I discussed whether the Beale Codes are real or a giant hoax. To recap, Thomas Beale and thirty other people excavated a massive treasure between 1819 and 1821. They reburied it in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Then Beale created three ciphers now known as the Beale Codes.

“The Beale Ciphers were three codes which would enable one to locate the treasure and distribute it to the rightful heirs in the event that the group didn’t survive. The first Beale Cipher revealed the location of the vault. The second Beale Cipher described the contents of the vault. And the third Beale Cipher provided names and residences of the group members as well as their heirs.” ~ David Meyer, Beale Ciphers: A Lost Treasure?

Only one of the Beale Codes – the second one – has ever been decoded. It revealed the exact contents of the treasure.

“I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford’s, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number three, herewith: The first deposit consisted of ten hundred and fourteen pounds of gold, and thirty-eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited Nov. eighteen nineteen. The second was made Dec. eighteen twenty-one, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at thirteen thousand dollars. The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number one describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson Beale, Decoded Version of Beale Cipher #2

Solving Beale Code #2?

Beale Code #2 is a book code. The “book” is the U.S. Declaration of Independence. In order to solve it, you take each number from the code and compare it to the relevant word in the document. Then you take the first letter from that word. So, the first number is 115. The 115th word in the Declaration of Independence is “instituted.” And the first letter in “instituted” is i. Below, you can see Beale Code #2 for yourself, as presented in The Beale Papers, Containing Authentic Statements Regarding the Treasure Buried in 1819 and 1821, Near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and which has Never Been Recovered:

Beale Code #2

Beale Code #2
Source: Archive.org

This code was supposedly solved by a “friend” of Robert Morriss. The friend claimed to have stumbled upon the solution. I’ve always considered this one of the hardest parts of the Beale story to swallow. Without the key, a book cipher would’ve been pretty much impossible to solve at the time. Oh yeah, and the Declaration used to encode Beale Cipher #2 contains numerous mistakes. And yet, the friend was still able to figure out those mistakes. So, either the entire thing is a scam or the friend was using a similar version of the Declaration (actually, that second option isn’t impossible to believe…flaws abound in early reprintings of the Declaration).

Solving the Unsolvable Ciphers?

Assuming the Beale Codes are real, it stands to reason the remaining ciphers are encoded like Beale Code #2. That means there are two ways to solve them. First, a budding treasure hunter could search for the right key. This would involve seeking out texts of the time period and comparing them to the ciphers. One interesting idea presented by Tim Haydock in his book, Treasure Trove, plays off the fact that Beale’s full name was Thomas Jefferson Beale. Beale Code #2 was encoded with the Declaration of Independence, which is usually associated with Jefferson. So, Beale Code #1 might correspond to someone named Thomas (perhaps Thomas Paine). Beale Code #3 would then be deciphered with something having to do with the name Beale. An alternative suggestion is that all three documents might link to works published by Thomas Jefferson.

The second approach is to employ computers in a brute force attack. I believe this has been done in the past, but I’d be curious to know what modern computers could do with it.

Regardless, here are the remaining Beale Ciphers for those of you who wish to try your hand with them.

Beale Code #1

Beale Code #1
Source: Archive.org

Beale Code #3

Beale Code #3
Source: Archive.org

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Before you run off searching for old books, there are two things you should know. First, some scholars think the Beale Codes story is nothing more than a Masonic allegory.

Actually, of course, Beale and his treasure are illusory-merely part of an allegory meant to evoke the anticipated Masonic “discovery of the secret vault and the inestimable treasures, with the long-lost word” (as expressed in the Royal Arch degree). The contrast between the futile quest for gold and that for more spiritual wealth are didactically expressed in the allegory.” ~ Joe Nickell, Mysterious Realms: Probing Paranormal, Historical, and Forensic Enigmas

And second, in 1980 Jim Gillogly used the same Declaration of Independence in an attempt to decipher Beale Code #1. This resulted in some curious strings of letters such as AAA, TTTTT, and most interesting, ABFDEFGHIIJKLMMNOHPP. Gillogly concluded that Beale Code #1 was fake, created by randomly selecting words out of the Declaration that, at least in part, formed the alphabet. On the other hand, this could indicate a two-stage code. In other words, the alphabetic sequence might line up with a keystring. Regardless, it seems almost certain at this point that the Declaration of Independence was used in some manner to create Beale Code #1.

Beale Treasure: Real…or a Giant Hoax?

Between 1819 and 1821, Thomas Beale buried a giant treasure in Virginia. The Beale Treasure has never been found. The key to its location lies in one of the most mysterious codes in history…the Beale Ciphers. But is the Beale Treasure even real? Or is it a giant hoax?

Is the Beale Treasure real...or a giant hoax?

Is the Beale Treasure real…or a giant hoax?
Description: Cover of the Beale Papers (published 1885)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Mysterious Beale Treasure?

Last Friday, I posted the first story in a short series about the mysterious Beale Treasure. Yesterday, I posted the second installment. To recap, Thomas Beale and thirty other people excavated a massive treasure between 1819 and 1821. They reburied it in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Then Beale created three ciphers now known as the Beale Ciphers.

“The Beale Ciphers were three codes which would enable one to locate the treasure and distribute it to the rightful heirs in the event that the group didn’t survive. The first Beale Cipher revealed the location of the vault. The second Beale Cipher described the contents of the vault. And the third Beale Cipher provided names and residences of the group members as well as their heirs.” ~ David Meyer, Beale Ciphers: A Lost Treasure?

Only one of the ciphers – the second one – has ever been decoded. It revealed the exact contents of the treasure.

“I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford’s, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number three, herewith: The first deposit consisted of ten hundred and fourteen pounds of gold, and thirty-eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited Nov. eighteen nineteen. The second was made Dec. eighteen twenty-one, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at thirteen thousand dollars. The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number one describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson Beale, Decoded Version of Beale Cipher #2

Is the Beale Treasure Real…or a Giant Hoax?

The remaining ciphers constitute two of the most famous unsolved codes in history. Many people find this suspicious. After all, high-speed computers and advances in code-breaking have enabled easy decryption of once unsolvable codes. That being said, numerous cryptographers have studied the remaining ciphers and concluded that the sequences of numbers appear non-random.

The story behind the Beale Treasure is problematic. Why would Beale and his companions dig up a giant treasure only to hide it somewhere else? Why didn’t they split it up and go on spending sprees instead? Why would they haul it out to Virginia if they intended to stay out west? And why would they entrust the secret to a man they barely knew – and thus further divide the Beale Treasure – rather than to one (or all) of the heirs?

Other problems abound. The second cipher – a description of the Beale Treasure – seems entirely unnecessary. And the third cipher – which provides the names and addresses of the heirs – seems entirely too short. It’s 618 characters long. Assuming it’s encoded like Beale Cipher #2 (one number is equivalent to one letter), each heir gets about twenty characters. That doesn’t leave much room for a full-blown address. For example, “Thomas Beale, Lynchburg,” runs twenty characters by itself. On the other hand, it is possible some of the heirs shared an address.

Also, some of the words used in Beale’s letters don’t seem to make sense. According to Joe Nickell, the words, “stampeding,” “improvised,” and “appliances” did not appear in print until decades after Beale’s letters were supposedly written. This would seem to indicate the letters were written at a later date or someone edited them along the way. There is also some evidence to suggest that the person who wrote Beale Cipher #2 also wrote the pamphlet that revealed the story to the public (The Beale Papers, Containing Authentic Statements Regarding the Treasure Buried in 1819 and 1821, Near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and which has Never Been Recovered).

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Beale Treasure suffer from the same problem as so many other legendary lost treasures…lack of falsifiability. There is simply no way to disprove the story. And there is no way to prove it either. Undoubtedly, Beale researchers will continue to study the codes, searching for a breakthrough. It may come someday. Or it may not.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some possible ways to approach the Beale Ciphers from a treasure hunting perspective. See you then!

Beale Ciphers #2: A Massive Treasure Revealed?

Between 1819 and 1821, Thomas Beale buried a gigantic treasure in Virginia. It’s never been found. In order to locate it, one must first decipher one of the most mysterious codes in history…the Beale Ciphers.

What are the Beale Ciphers?

What are the Beale Ciphers?
Description: Cover of the Beale Papers (published 1885)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Mysterious Beale Ciphers?

On Friday, I posted the first story in a short series about the mysterious Beale Ciphers. To recap, Thomas Beale and thirty other people excavated a massive treasure between 1819 and 1821. They reburied this treasure in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Then Beale created a series of ciphers to make sure the treasure could be located in the event he and his group were killed.

“The Beale Ciphers were three codes which would enable one to locate the treasure and distribute it to the rightful heirs in the event that the group didn’t survive. The first Beale Cipher revealed the location of the vault. The second Beale Cipher described the contents of the vault. And the third Beale Cipher provided names and residences of the group members as well as their heirs.” ~ David Meyer, Beale Ciphers: A Lost Treasure?

In 1822, Beale locked the Beale Ciphers, along with two letters, in an iron box. He gave the box to Robert Morriss, a Virginia-based innkeeper, for safekeeping. Morriss placed it in a safe and proceeded to forget about it.

A few months later, Morriss received a letter from Beale. It was dated May 9, 1822. Beale claimed to be en route to the Great Plains on a two-year hunting trip. He told Morriss that the box contained papers that would “be unintelligible without the aid of a key…” He asked Morriss to keep the box for ten years. If no one came for it by then, Morriss was to assume Beale and the rest of his party was dead. He was then supposed to open the box and use a key (which would somehow be mailed in June 1832) to decipher the papers.

Morriss never heard from Beale again.

The Beale Ciphers…Deciphered?

June 1832 came and went. Morriss continued to wait and didn’t open the box until 1845. Inside, he found two letters, detailing the story of the Beale treasure. He also found three papers, covered with seemingly random numbers. In his letters, Beale asked Morriss to find the treasure and distribute it to thirty beneficiaries. For his efforts, Morriss would be entitled to an equal share of the treasure. Unfortunately, Morriss had never received the promised key. He was unable to decipher the codes and thus, the treasure remained lost.

In 1862, Morriss passed the Beale Ciphers to a friend (possibly James B. Ward). If he was able to locate the treasure, the friend would receive one-half of Morriss’ share. The friend believed the code was a standard key-code, with each number standing for a separate letter or word. For the next twenty years, the friend worked on the Beale Ciphers, comparing them to various documents. Eventually, he came upon a solution.

The friend compared the second Beale Cipher to the Declaration of Independence. Each number corresponded to a word in the document. The friend took the first letter of each word and came up with the following:

“I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford’s, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number three, herewith: The first deposit consisted of ten hundred and fourteen pounds of gold, and thirty-eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited Nov. eighteen nineteen. The second was made Dec. eighteen twenty-one, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at thirteen thousand dollars. The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number one describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson Beale, Decoded Version of Beale Cipher #2

In a cruel twist of fate, the friend now knew the sheer size of the treasure but not the exact location. He returned to the remaining codes with a renewed spirit. Unfortunately, he never managed to decode either of the other two Beale Ciphers. In 1885, the friend finally gave up. He proceeded to publish the whole story as a pamphlet entitled, The Beale Papers, Containing Authentic Statements Regarding the Treasure Buried in 1819 and 1821, Near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and which has Never Been Recovered.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll take a closer look at the Beale Ciphers themselves. See you then!

Beale Ciphers: A Lost Treasure?

Between 1819 and 1821, Thomas Beale buried a whopping 2,921 pounds of gold and 5,100 pounds of silver in Virginia. It’s still there, waiting for someone to dig up. But there’s a catch. In order to find it, one must first decipher one of the most mysterious codes in history…the Beale Ciphers.

What are the Beale Ciphers?

What are the Beale Ciphers?
Description: Cover of the Beale Papers (published 1885)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Treasure Trove of Thomas Beale

In 1817, a man named Thomas Beale led thirty Virginians on a western hunting trip. They left St. Louis in May and arrived at Santa Fe in December. After several months of little activity, a few members of the group embarked on an excursion. Several weeks later, they sent word that they had discovered gold in a ravine, 250 to 300 miles north of Santa Fe. Immediately, Beale set forth to examine the site and found a large cache of gold and silver.

The group worked the ravine for 18 months, gathering a large quantity of gold and silver in the process. Afterward, they decided to transport the treasure to a cave “near Buford’s tavern in the county of Bedford.” After a long journey, part of Beale’s group arrived in Bedford. Unfortunately, the cave in question was being used by others. So, Beale’s group dug a vault in the Blue Ridge Mountains and buried the treasure. Beale later returned to the ravine, gathered more treasure, and proceeded to deposit it in the vault.

The Beale Ciphers?

The treasure was to be split into thirty shares, one for each member of the group. However, the group faced a problem. They didn’t want anyone to know about the treasure. At the same time, members were still actively hunting and prospecting at the ravine. As such, they were worried about Indian attacks and outlaws. If they were killed in a raid, no one would ever know about the treasure or who had rightful claim to it.

So, Beale created the Beale Ciphers. The Beale Ciphers were three codes which would enable one to locate the treasure and distribute it to the rightful heirs in the event that the group didn’t survive. The first Beale Cipher revealed the location of the vault. The second Beale Cipher described the contents of the vault. And the third Beale Cipher provided names and residences of the group members as well as their heirs. In a letter, Beale stated that the Beale Ciphers would “be unintelligible without the key…”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The full story of the Beale Ciphers is long and complicated. So, it’ll take me a few days to go through it. Tomorrow, we’ll look into what Beale did with those ciphers and how they became public knowledge. Stay tuned…the best is yet to come!

The Lost Apollo 11 Engines?

Apollo 11 Launch

“At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the swing arms move away and a plume of flame signals the liftoff of the Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle and astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A.”
Source: NASA

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Kennedy Space Center, sending Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on a date with destiny. In the process, two massive F-1 engines were jettisoned into the ocean, seemingly lost for all time. Now, after a year-long expedition, billionaire Jeff Bezos has salvaged this history-making technology.

Salvaging the Apollo 11 Engines?

We first reported on this story in March 2012, calling it one of the most incredible salvage efforts of all time, ranking up there with Robert E. Peary’s search for “The Tent.” The cost of the recovery and restoration remains unknown but according to NASA, the engines will be displayed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum as well as Seattle’s Museum of Flight, respectively.

Who owns the Apollo 11 Engines?

The exact ownership of the engines remains unclear to me. I’m sure the U.S. government claims ownership. However, this would appear to fall under the Homesteading Principle. In essence, governments cannot legitimately own private property, since everything they have (including tax dollars) has been, in effect, taken with force. Even if you disagree with that assessment, NASA abandoned the engines, making no plans to ever recover them. Thus, I would argue no one owned the engines prior to discovery. Bezos Expeditions, on the other hand, is the rightful owner of its own labor. By salvaging the engines, it added its labor to the engines and thus, became the rightful owner.

Here’s more on the discovery of the lost Apollo 11 engines from Jeff Bezos at Bezos Expeditions:

What an incredible adventure. We are right now onboard the Seabed Worker headed back to Cape Canaveral after finishing three weeks at sea, working almost 3 miles below the surface. We found so much. We’ve seen an underwater wonderland – an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program. We photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime pieces. Each piece we bring on deck conjures for me the thousands of engineers who worked together back then to do what for all time had been thought surely impossible.

Many of the original serial numbers are missing or partially missing, which is going to make mission identification difficult. We might see more during restoration. The objects themselves are gorgeous…

(See the rest at Bezos Expeditions)

The Lost World of Mauritia?

Professor Aronnax and Captain Nemo visit the ruins of the lost world of Atlantis

Professor Aronnax and Captain Nemo visit the ruins of the lost world of Atlantis
Illustration by Alphonse de Neuville and Edouard Riou
Source: Wikimedia Commons

We still don’t know much about what Earth looked like millions of years ago. But underwater lost worlds are popping up with increased frequency these days. The latest example is Mauritia. Unfortunately, I’m skeptical…very skeptical.

The Lost World of Mauritia?

Millions of years ago, Mauritia supposedly split off from Madagascar and made its way east, thanks to plate tectonics and sea-floor spreading. Eventually, this lost world sank to the bottom of the ocean. Now, a group of scientists claim to have found evidence for it. Unfortunately, the evidence is incredibly skimpy, consisting of twenty grains of zircons found in the sand on the island of Mauritius as well as an unusually thick sea-floor crust in the Indian Ocean.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Twenty grains of zircons? That’s it? Good lord. Supposedly, these zircons were gathered from remote beaches, which reduces the possibility they were carried there by tourists. Plus, the odds of them being blown over from Madagascar are considered unlikely. But let’s be honest…what’s the more likely scenario? That the zircons originated from a sunken lost world? Or that they were inadvertently brought to Mauritius by folks from Madagascar or elsewhere?

Here’s more from Sid Perkins at Nature:

The drowned remnants of an ancient microcontinent may lie scattered beneath the waters between Madagascar and India, a new study suggests.

Evidence for the long-lost land comes from Mauritius, a volcanic island about 900 kilometres east of Madagascar. The oldest basalts on the island date to about 8.9 million years ago, says Bjørn Jamtveit, a geologist at the University of Oslo. Yet grain-by-grain analyses of beach sand that Jamtveit and his colleagues collected at two sites on the Mauritian coast revealed around 20 zircons — tiny crystals of zirconium silicate that are exceedingly resistant to erosion or chemical change — that were far older…

(See the rest at Nature)

Ghost Ship: Tracking down the Octavius Legend?

The Gloriana Ghost Ship (Octavius Legend)

The Gloriana Ghost Ship (Octavius Legend)
Description: Illustration from The Blue Adventure Book (1905)
Source: The Blue Adventure Book (Digitized by Google Books)

According to legend, the Herald discovered a ghost ship named the Octavius near Greenland in 1775. They found the entire crew frozen at the helm. The captain’s log, last dated November 11, 1762, indicated the Octavius had been lost at sea for over 13 years. It had gotten trapped in the ice and somehow managed to successfully traverse the fabled Northwest Passage after the crew had succumbed to the frozen tundra.

A Possible Origin for the Octavius Ghost Ship?

I’ve spent the last few days tracking down the truth behind the legend. Yesterday, I was able to push the story back 1905, thanks to an entry in The Blue Adventure Book: A collection of Stirring Scenes and Moving Accidents from the World of Adventure. It tells a very similar story to that of the Octavius. Here’s more from me:

Back in 1775, John Warrens was captain of the Try Again. One day, he came across a ghost ship named the Gloriana. He boarded it and discovered a frozen crew. The log-book indicated the ship had spent the last 13 years as a floating coffin. So, we’ve got a similar story about a crew being frozen for 13 years. The date in the log-book, November 11, 1762, is the same as in the Octavius story. And we’ve also got the captain taking the log-book as proof while leaving the rest of the ship behind.

In the Gloriana tale, there’s no mention of the Northwest Passage. That, along with the Octavius moniker, appears to be a later addition. But otherwise, the stories are very similar. So, how much of the Gloriana ghost ship tale is accurate? Was it originally a work of fiction? If not, was it embellished over the years? Well, the Blue Adventure Book version was written in the first person. But no source is given. So, it could be a word-for-word copy of the original story or it could be a fictionalized entry.

An Earlier Source for the Octavius Ghost Ship?

After some digging, I managed to track down a much earlier source for this ghost ship story. There was a flurry of articles written about it in late 1828 and early 1829. The earliest version I’ve found so far was published on December 13, 1828 in a Philadelphia-based newspaper named The Ariel: A Literary and Critical Gazette. The article is entitled The Dangers of Sailing in High Latitudes. Here’s a taste:

Captain Warrens’ curiosity was so much excited, that he immediately leaped into the boat with several seamen, and rowed towards her. On approaching, he observed that her hull was miserably weatherbeaten, and not a soul appeared upon the deck, which was covered with snow to a considerable depth. He hailed her crew several times, but no answer was returned. Previous to stepping on board, an open port hole near the main chains caught his eye, and on looking into it, he perceived a man reclining back in a chair, with writing materials on a small table before him, but the feebleness of the light made every thing very indistinct.

The party, therefore, went upon deck, and having removed the hatchway, which they found closed, they descended to the cabin. They first came to the apartment which Captain Warrens had viewed through the port hole. A tremour seized him as he entered it. Its inmate retained his former position, and seemed to be insensible of strangers. He was found to be a corpse, and a green damp mould had covered his cheeks and forehead, and veiled his eye balls. He held a pen in his hand, and a log book before him, the last sentence in whose unfinished page thus, “11th Nov. 1762; We have been enclosed in the ice seventy days. The fire went out yesterday, and our master has been trying ever since to kindle it again but without success. His wife died this morning. There is no relief -“

Note that the time in the ice is seventy days here as opposed to seventeen days in the Blue Adventure Book version. Also, this version has Captain Warrens discovering the name of the ship (which is never given) after some detective work. The Blue Adventure Book version makes it clear that the name Gloriana is etched “in tall faded letters above her blistered stern.” But the stories are still almost identical in content. On a side note, this ghost ship story seems to get revived every few decades. It made another appearance around 1847, with similar articles being written as far apart as the Republican Advocate (Batavia, New York) and the South Australian Register.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, here’s where I stand. I’ve traced the Octavius ghost ship story back to 1828. That’s 77 years closer than I was yesterday. However, I’m still 53 years short of a primary source. If anyone has any pre-1828 information on this story, let me know. You might just help me solve a centuries-old ghost ship legend.

Ghost Ship: A New Twist in the Octavius Legend?

John Warrens discovers a frozen crew onboard the Gloriana Ghost Ship

John Warrens discovers a frozen crew onboard the Gloriana Ghost Ship
Description: Illustration from The Blue Adventure Book (1905)
Source: The Blue Adventure Book (Digitized by Google Books)

Two days ago, I wrote about a ghost ship named the Octavius, which traversed the Northwest Passage with a frozen crew back in 1775. I’ve been curious about the Octavius for some time but have never been able to find a primary source documenting the story. After my article, Ralf Bülow pointed me toward a possible answer in the Nunatsiaq Online:

Last week I wrote about the mythical voyage of the Octavius through the Northwest Passage. Then this past weekend, while perusing some books on Arctic whaling, I came across a whaler’s tale that bears a striking similarity to the Octavius story. The name of the ship is different, and there is no reference to the mystery vessel having traversed the Northwest Passage. But the date of the alleged entry in the log-book of the ghost vessel is exactly the same – 11 November 1762…

Back in 1775, John Warrens was captain of the Try Again. One day, he came across a ghost ship named the Gloriana. He boarded it and discovered a frozen crew. The log-book indicated the ship had spent the last 13 years as a floating coffin. So, we’ve got a similar story about a crew being frozen for 13 years. The date in the log-book, November 11, 1762, is the same as in the Octavius story. And we’ve also got the captain taking the log-book as proof while leaving the rest of the ship behind.

All things being equal, this seems like a viable source for the modern Octavius ghost ship story. But the Nunatsiaq Online article was based on a 1937 book rather than source material. So, I did a little more digging. So, far the earliest reference I can find for the Gloriana ghost ship story comes from The Blue Adventure Book: A collection of Stirring Scenes and Moving Accidents from the World of Adventure, which was published in 1905:

It was in the middle of August, 1775 – I have cause enough to remember the date – that I, John Warrens, captain of the Greenland whaler Try Again, ran across the experience that I am going to tell, word for word, just as it happened. I can’t say i expect to be believed, though reckoned a truthful man; but I’m growing accustomed to that. My private consolation is that I never had half the wits enough to invent it; so if you don’t believe what I tell you for gospel, why, in a way, you’re only paying me a compliment after all…

The story purports to be a first-hand account. Unfortunately, The Blue Adventure Book doesn’t detail its sources. So, we’re 32 years closer to getting to the bottom of this story. Unfortunately, we’re still 230 years short of a primary source. If anyone has any information, let me know. Who knows? Maybe we can solve the mystery of the Octavius ghost ship legend once and for all

Ghost Ship: The Mysterious Case of the Octavius?

Do Ghost Ships Exist?

Do Ghost Ships Exist?
Description: Illustration from The Ghost Ship by John Conroy Hutcheson (1901)
Attribution: Henry Austin
Source: Wikimedia Commons

On October 11, 1775, the Herald came across a strange ghost ship named the Octavius near Greenland. Upon closer inspection, they discovered the entire crew frozen at the helm. The captain’s log, last dated November 11, 1762, indicated the Octavius had been lost at sea for over 13 years.

Amazingly enough, the log revealed the Octavius had attempted to become the first ship  to successfully traverse the fabled Northwest Passage. Apparently, it got trapped in the ice and only completed the passage after the crew had succumbed to the frozen tundra. The Herald took the log but otherwise left the ship untouched. The Octavius was never seen again. Presumably, it’s still out there somewhere, trapped in an endless sea of ice.

It’s quite a story…but is it real? Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a primary source to substantiate it. And there are no records of the log either. Still, I’m looking for them, among others. Tracking down a real-life ghost ship has long been a dream of mine. But in the meantime, we’ll just have to enjoy the stories. Here’s more from Ghost Ships of the World:

In 1761, a sailing ship named The Octavius departed London loaded with cargo bound for China.  Having safely arrived at it’s destination and taking on another load for the return trip, the captain decided to take advantage of the unusually warm weather and chance an attempt at the shorter route via the northwest passage which until that point, had never been done successfully.  So in 1762, The Octavius departed China with a load of goods for the return trip to the Atlantic and headed northward to attempt an Arctic passage.  The ship made it through the passage…  thirteen years later as a ghost ship…

(See the rest at Ghost Ships of the World)