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

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