IT was a dark and stormy night. The waves churned the rescue vessel and the hurricane raged. At last the efforts to save the doomed vessel or whatever was left of it was given up.
Well, that’s the right way to start a mystery story. But what we do know that the “ghost ship” under discussion here was sailing the high seas and probably the cause of the strange disappearance of its crew and the wreckage found could have been due to some sort of natural or unnatural phenomenon.
Carroll A. Deering, a commercial schooner was built in 1919 by the G.G. Deering Company in Bath, Maine. The cargo ship was doing rounds for a year before its last and mysterious voyage while bound for Brazil. It was carrying coal to be delivered in Rio de Janeiro. The Deering left Newport on August 22, 1920. Captain William H. Merritt became ill in late August and had to leave with his son Lewis, the first mate, when the ship made port in Lewes Delaware.
The Deering Company hired a 66-year-old retired veteran Captain W.B. Wormell and a man named Charles B. McLellan was hired as his first mate. The ship once again set sail on its voyage in September 1920 after the stop. It reached Rio safely and delivered the cargo. The 10-man crew, which were Scandinavian, were given leave while at port. While there, Captain Wormell met an old friend of another ship Captain Goodwin. During the conversation, Captain Wormell told his friend that he was not too happy with the crew of his ship.
Then the Deering left Rio on December 2, 1920. It then stopped in Barbados for some supplies. While there, the first mate, Charles McLellan got drunk and spoke ill of his captain in a cafeteria where he was heard by other seamen saying, “I’ll get the captain before we get to Norfolk, I will”. Due to his disorderly behaviour and sour comments about his own captain, Wormell got him arrested. Later Wormell forgave him, got him out of jail and the doomed ship set sail again on January 9. The next time the ship was sighted was on January 28, 1921, in North Carolina by the Cape Lookout Lightship (a ship that serves as a lighthouse).
The keeper of the Lightship, Captain Jacobson stated to authorities that he was hailed by a thin man who was shouting that the ship had lost its anchors and asked him to inform the company. The man he described was thin with red hair.
What seemed strange to the keeper was that the crew seemed to be roaming around the fore deck of the ship, which is supposed to be an area where normally the crew is not allowed. Then on January 31, 1921, the Deering was seen to have run aground off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. When rescue ships tried to approach the vessel, the weather turned so bad that they had to give up their efforts.
Then on February 4, the ship was boarded for inspection. The navigation equipment, the ship’s log and rescue boats were all gone along with all the belongings of the crew. But strangely, the galley of the ship seemed like a meal was under preparation for the next day. Sadly, nothing could be salvaged from the ship and thus it was blown up with dynamite and sent to rest at the bottom of the dark waters.
What actually happened? Where did the crew go? The strange disappearance of the schooner was an enigma to the United States government and an in depth investigation was caused into the mystery. The extensive investigation included five departments including the Navy, the Justice Department, Treasury and Commerce, the Secretary of Commerce at that time, Herbert Hover, was quite puzzled by the fact that many other ships had disappeared in the same area although the region seemed to be a site of severe hurricanes. But the puzzling thing was that the Deering and another vessel Hewitt that had been lost seemed to be moving away from the hurricanes at that time.
Lawrence Ritchey, the man posted as the head of the investigation charted out the journey of the vessel after its last sighting at Cape Lookout and the log books of the Coast Guards who were on duty at Lightships. Several theories were presented and looked into.
Were the raging hurricanes in the region of the Atlantic Ocean responsible for the shipwreck? If so, then why did it seem that the ship was abandoned in an orderly fashion like the crew taking all their belongings and the disappearance of the log and communication devices? Moreover it seemed to be moving away from the storm.
The other theory investigated was that the ship was boarded by pirates who took the people and the belongings. But then no pirates were ever found to be roaming the area and none were ever caught. It was also suspected that the ship was taken by smugglers to be used as their vessel. But the theory was later debunked because the Deering was an easily identifiable ship and would have been recognised too easily to be used for smuggling purposes. It also would not be fast enough for such a task.
The most agreed upon theory was mutiny. The reason being that Captain Wormell’s disagreement with his first mate and then the sour remarks of the mate against his captain! If that was the case, where were the crew? Lots of ports and ships were later investigated for the crew, which could have taken jobs on other ships or found out sailing but none were found.
And last but not least is the paranormal explanation that the bizarre disappearance of the crew, a meal under preparation all indicated that some supernatural forces were at work and that since the Bermuda Triangle seemed to be in the vicinity it seemed a most intriguing explanation. But then the ship was hundreds of miles away from the supposed location. Since none of the answers were proven, the case was closed and the disappearance of Carroll A. Deering continues to be one of the most puzzling sea mysteries till today.