Haunted Ships

 

Ghostly occurrences aren't just limited to land. Welcome aboard to the Supernatural at Sea.
Ghostly occurrences aren’t just limited to land. Welcome aboard to the Supernatural at Sea.

Do you believe in ghosts? Ever encounter an other-worldly spirit who just couldn’t resist scaring the bejessus out of you? Some scientists say hauntings are very much real and that they are done either by a soul who has a message for us, or someone who has difficulty crossing over to the other side.

And if you think hauntings are just for landlubbing ghosts and spirits, you better fasten your seatbelts. Well, better make that your life vest because you’re about to be thrown feet first into the sea of the supernatural.

Take the Ourang Medan, a Dutch freighter haunted by mystery as it floated near the Strait of Malacca sometime in the nineteen forties. When the City of Baltimore and the Silver Star picked up an SOS on their radios, they responded. But it was the Silver Star that arrived first. What their boarding party discovered, shocked even the most hardened seaman.

Disfigured corpses littered the deck everywhere. Even the carcass of a dog was found. On their faces were the most hideous expressions as if what they had just witnessed was too horrible to speak of. Was it Pirates? A mutiny? Not a trace of violence could be found on any of the sailors. No stab wounds. No blood. Nothing. Just the mangled corpses of the entire crew.

Before the boarding party could investigate further, a screaming explosion ripped the ship’s hull apart, and crew members were forced to return to their ship. Some authorities hypothesize that the ship was carrying sulfuric acid and when water finally came in contact with it, it exploded. Continue reading

In the Wake of the Storm

When the next storm will gather is anyone's guess. We still have five more weeks of hurricane season.
When the next storm will gather is anyone’s guess. We still have five more weeks of hurricane season.

It’s been almost two weeks since hurricane Matthew limped out to sea, an exhausted tropical storm that took its toll on people and property alike.

The clean-up is well underway in South Carolina and elsewhere. I can actually see my backyard and my palm trees again after clearing away fallen branches and trees of small oaks, chestnuts, and the like.

My sister-in-law wasn’t so lucky. A storm surge coupled with marsh flooding encroached on her condo with devastating consequences. Yet the clean-up proceeds even amidst mountains of ruined furniture, bedding, walls, and rugs. Hopefully, she’ll have her home back before the holidays and life will return to normal for her.

What’s particularly troubling are the properties that line the beaches up and down the Eastern Coast. Many are humble bungalows and others stately mansions that look out on the breathtaking beauty of the sea that brought so much destruction. No walk to the beach for these folks. The beach is their backyard.

The only problem is after a storm of Matthew’s magnitude many people rebuild right at the dune’s edge knowing full well the wrath of the sea will one day again destroy part or all of their property. How can they afford to do this you may well ask.

And the answer is twofold. One, high insurance rates, part of which is paid for by federal subsidies paid for by taxpayers like you and me. Two, they revert to petitioning, cajoling, or suing their state and federal governments to indulge in one of several projects to try to keep the sea at bay.

Some of these projects involve the construction of groins more commonly known as jetties. Another is the construction of sea walls. Many are made of stone, others of metal, or other materials.

Other common techniques used to preserve beach, dunes, and homes butted up against the sea include beach restoration with sand, dune building, and in some places the planting of native plants in the water to slow or alter wave action.

The truth is none of these solutions really work very well. In fact, since I’m supposed to be telling the truth, I’ll give it to you straight. These projects work terribly or not at all.

For example, it was jetties built in 1879 that led to the demise of the Morris Island Lighthouse. Traditional patterns of the sea determining where sand would be deposited shifted because of these manmade structures, and now Morris Light stands destitute, a half mile from shore.

Because jetties interrupt the normal flow of sand, when one neighbor builds a jetty, it encourages a neighbor to do the same to protect his property. And the domino effect continues all along the coast.

The wall built along Sea Bright, New Jersey to protect the homes of a few hundred home owners starves the federal park of Sandy Hook of tons of sand. This is a recreational area where millions of people from New York and New Jersey flock to every year.  How fair or sensible is that?

Every year municipalities all along the coasts of the United States spend millions of dollars to protect public and private property that will only be undone sometimes even before the project is completed. Continue reading

When the Big Storm Blows

Miami waits as storm clouds gather.
Miami waits as storm clouds gather.

Hurricane Matthew has long blown out to sea, and I know I speak for millions when I say good riddance. What began as a category four hurricane finally limped out to sea as a tropical storm after a week of spreading death and destruction to millions and creating havoc in the lives of millions more.

We should be particularly mindful of the folks in Haiti who lost over three hundred sons and daughters, parents, and grandparents when it crossed through the Windward Passage, the strait separating Cuba from Haiti. Ironically, it’s the same route buccaneers and pirates took hundreds of times when they wreaked havoc on passing ships in the eighteenth century Caribbean.

The Bahamas has learned to deal with both hurricanes and pirates
The Bahamas has learned to deal with both hurricanes and pirates

The Bahamas, as vulnerable as they are with their mostly low lying country, were spared the deadly impact of Matthew. Since Nassau was once a pirate stronghold with the ships of Benjamin Hornigold and Blackbeard filling their harbor, I’d like to think maybe they were keeping a watchful eye over the islands.

As for my wife and I, after two days of preparation, we finally evacuated our home in Murrells Inlet. At the time, Matthew was a category four hurricane still tormenting Haiti and the Caribbean, and Governor Haley of South Carolina was issuing evacuation orders.

Though the storm was downgraded to a category one when it arrived on my front door step, I don’t regret leaving. It gave my wife and I the opportunity to reunite with her cousin and his lovely wife in North Carolina where they were gracious enough  to host us for five days. The laughter and memories we shared were priceless, and Johnny’s stories about his time in Vietnam gave me an even deeper appreciation of the Vietnam vet. Thanks Johnny and Peggy. I hope you realize how much it meant to us. Continue reading