Cape Horn ghost ship not so ghostly

This one’s from the April 3, 1907 edition of Anadarko, Oklahoma’s Daily Democrat, and it starts out with a doozy of a lead:

“Another blow against time-honoured traditions has been struck by the iconoclasts of science.”

In this case, that time-honoured tradition was believing in a ghost ship seen by sailors coming west by way of Cape Horn. They’d report, according to the Daily Democrat article, spotting something that “seemed to be a derelict with water washing over her decks,” which those sailors would go ahead and identify as either the legendary Flying Dutchman or the Ghost Ship of Le Maire (the sightings themselves took place in the Strait of Le Maire).

But those damn “iconoclasts of science” in the United States hydrographic office went and ruined all the spooky fun by determining that the sailors aren’t seeing a ship at all – rather, they’re misidentifying the jagged rocks that line the strait, one of which, under certain atmospheric conditions, simply looks like a ship.

“The formation of the rocks and the shadows they cast combined to produce the effect of a bark running under short sails.”

The story mentions plans to mark the area, but interestingly enough, the Le Maire ship rock isn’t the only one out there among the seven seas.

“Almost every sailor has seen one in some part of the world. In the Clipperton Islands there is a great white rock looking like a three-masted schooner, leaning on the wind with her royals set and the sun shining on her white sails.

“About six or seven miles west of Honolulu there is a rock known as French Frigate Rock, because once upon a time a French frigate when ashore on it. The cliffs looked so much like a ship that the frigate was deceived and thought she was meeting another ship.

“St. Paul Island in the middle of the Atlantic is said to look very much like a ship when approached from a certain direction, but it is a place which mariners prefer to give a wide berth.”

Well, you win some, you lose some, right?

Ghost Ship of Cape Horn – Daily Democrat (Anadarko, Okla) – April 3, 1907

While we’re on the subject, I’m going to put another call out for information on the SS Bannockburn, one of the storied ghost ships of the Great Lakes. The ship’s final voyage, in fact, began right here in pre-amalgamation Thunder Bay, back when the city was still the side-by-side and separate municipalities of Port Arthur and Fort William.

The Bannockburn left port in Fort William in late November 1902, heading out onto the vastness of Lake Superior loaded with bushels of wheat. Her destination was Georgian Bay. She was never seen again.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Some say that she’s still seen to this day out on the big lake. But they say a lot of things, don’t they?

Still, if anyone has anything to share about the Bannockburn, or the other legendary ghost ships still spotted on Lake Superior, drop me a line.


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