Also known as a phantom ship, a ghost ship is actually a vessel with no living crew aboard. It can be because of two reasons.
Firstly, it is just a haunted ship or at least rumoured to be haunted just like the Flying Dutchman in the Pirates of the Caribbean. The second reason is because it was found adrift with its crew missing or dead.
The term ‘ghost ship’ is sometimes referred to ships that have been decommissioned but not yet scrapped. It is also a term used for drifting boats that have been found after breaking loose of their ropes.
And that was the case of the ghost ship found in Mukah at the end of January 1948.
The post-war ghost ship in Mukah
On Mar 1, 1948, The Sarawak Gazette reported there was “an unheralded guest” which arrived on the coast of Sarawak.
The ‘guest’ was a vessel found about 20 miles east of Mukah with no crew on board.
The report stated, “Weather conditions were unfavourable for an examination until Friday the 13th February when a launch from Kuching arrived there.”
After an initial examination, they found out the vessel was a landing craft tank (LCT).
A LCT was an amphibious assault craft for landing tanks on beachheads. These landing tanks were initially developed by the British Royal Navy and later by the United States Navy during World War II (WWII).
By the looks of it, the LCT found off Mukah had been taken out of commission after WWII.
There were no documents on board and the living quarters showed no sign of recent use.
Nonetheless, there were some clues found on the adrift LCT. “On the bow the number 930 is painted in large letters and a stencil on the aft bulkhead reads ‘This craft reconditioned by Philippine Consolidated Shipyards.'”
The markings also indicated that the probable date of the reconditioning was June, 1947.
In addition to that, they found only one of the five engines to be in working order.
The hull of the vessel had been smashed to that extent that the craft was in danger of breaking in two.
The theory behind the ghost ship found adrift
Since there was no living soul on board the ghost ship to give their testimony to how she ended up where she was found, the best that Sarawakians at that time could do was guess.
The Sarawak Gazette writer guessed that the ghost ship was actually a United States naval vessel which had been laid up probably in the Philippines and probably also alongside other vessels.
“She had broken adrift during a storm and had badly damaged the upper sections of her hull by rolling against the sides of neighbouring craft.”
One crucial clue that the ghost ship given was that her mooring ropes still dangled from her port and starboard quarters.
Plus, with side tanks undamaged she retained sufficient buoyancy to weather the storms. She eventually got stranded off the coast of Borneo ending her involuntary voyage.