Ghost Ship – The strange mystery of the København

The missing København
The missing København

The København

The Kobenhavn was built for the Danish East Asiatic Company in 1921, When it was launched it was the world’s largest sailing ship. It’s sails stood over 5 stories high.

From 1921 to 1928 the ship made nine voyages, visiting nearly every continent and completing two circumnavigations.

Vanished without a trace

On September 21, 1928, the København departed from Nørresundby in Northern Jutland for Buenos Aires on its tenth, and ultimately final, voyage.

The captain was the very experienced Hans Andersen; 75 persons were aboard, including 26 crew and 45 cadets. The goal was to unload a shipload of chalk and bagged cement in Buenos Aires, take on another load of cargo and sail for Melbourne, and then bring a shipment of Australian wheat back to Europe.

The København arrived at Buenos Aires on November 17, 1928. The cargo was unloaded quickly.

The ships departure was delayed as there were no paying commissions to take cargo to Australia, and a solution was hard to find.

Finally, on December 14, almost a month after arriving in Buenos Aired, Captain Andersen decided to ship out for Australia without a cargo.

All is well

The voyage was expected to take 45 days. On December 22 the København exchanged radio messages with the Norwegian steamer William Blumer, indicating they were about 900 miles from Tristan da Cunha and that “all is well”.

The Blumer attempted to contact the København again later that night, to no avail.


Due to the length of the voyage to Australia, and the fact that Andersen routinely went long periods without sending a message, the Danish were not initially worried about the silence from the ship.

However, as months passed without word they became concerned and In April 1929 the Danish East Asiatic Company dispatched a motor vessel, the Mexico, to Tristan da Cunha to search for the Kobenhavn.

They received reports that a large five-masted ship with its foremast brokenness as seen on January 21, 1929; however it had not attempted to come inland.

The Mexico, joined by the British Royal Navy, searched for the København for several months, but found no sign. The Danish government declared the ship and its crew were lost at sea.

Ghost Ship

For the next few years after the København’s disappearance there were a number of sightings of a mysterious five-masted ship fitting its description, seen adrift in the Pacific.

In July 1930, the crew of an Argentine freighter sighted a five-masted “phantom ship” during a gale. The captain took their statements and wondered if this was the “wraith of the Copenhagen”.

Further sightings came in the following weeks and months from Easter Island and across the Peruvian coast.

Later some wreckage, including a piece of stern bearing the name “København”, reportedly was found off West Australia.

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