The very mysterious case of the Marlborough Ghost Ship


Lost at sea

The Marlborough was an iron-built two-decked merchant sailing ship which disappeared in 1890. She was built by the firm of Robert Duncan and Co., Port Glasgow and launched in 1876 for her owner John Leslie, who later sold her to the Albion Line.

Marlborough had made 14 successful voyages with immigrants from London to New Zealand up to 1890, most often returning with cargoes of wool and frozen meat.

The last recorded trip saw it sail from New Zealand in January, 1890, with 33 crew members and a small number of passengers on board. By April of that year, it had not arrived in Britain and was reported missing, assumed lost at sea. The insurance claim stated the ship had likely been sunk by icebergs, which were frequently encountered near Cape Horn.

The strange mystery

In October 1913, the Singapore newspaper The Straits Times published a story according to which the Marlborough had been discovered near Cape Horn with the skeletons of her crew on board

This means the ship was eventually found 23 years after it disappeared.

The report claims

In 1913, a shipwreck was discovered by another crew in Puntas Arenas, Chile. They boarded the ship and discovered it to be the Marlborough, which had run aground onto an extremely craggy island.

Two crew members that boarded the ship, reported that they were horrified at what they found.

All in all, about 20 skeletons were found on board, and in a lot of different locations. One was found alone, directly under the wheel, and another one found alone on the bridge, with five more nearby.

No less than three skeletons were found by the ladder leading below the deck. The largest group found in a single area consisted of 10 skeletons, in what is known as the “mess-room”—the main social quarters of the ship.

Mystery or legend ?

There was no evidence of foul play, which makes the placement of the skeletons extremely baffling. They obviously died at the same time, because you wouldn’t leave dead bodies just lying around the ship.

So how did three people die in the hatchway at once? It might suggest to some that they were running from something, but remember that bodies were found in different locations all over the ship, which says they weren’t rounded up by anyone and killed. Another fact to remember is that a person, most likely the captain, was found under the steering wheel.

Steering really wouldn’t be a high priority if your crew was being killed. And apart from the fact that no damage to the bodies was reported, the captain had his sword right by him. Why wasn’t this used, and then later looted? Why wasn’t anything looted? And if the ship had simply run aground, everyone would have gotten off.

“Marlborough, Glasgow” could be read on the ship. So, according to the reports, we seem to know for sure that this is the ship that was missing for 23 years. But that’s all we really know.

Another report claims the crew survived – for awhile!


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