In June, 1947, several ships in the straits of Malacca near Sumatra picked up an S.O.S. that included the message, "All officers including captain are dead lying in chart room and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” That was followed by another message from the sender that read simply, "I die."
Two American merchant ships picked up the message, which was identified as coming from the Ourang Medan, a Dutch freighter. The closest to the troubled ship was the Silver Star, which sailed full power in hopes of aiding the ship. When it arrived, the crew tried to signal and otherwise contact the Ourang Medan, but there was no reply.
Upon boarding the ship, the crew of the Silver Star made a shocking and mysterious discovery: everyone aboard the Ourang Medan was dead, including the captain on the bridge, the officers in the wheelhouse, right down to the crewman who sent the message of distress, with his hand still on the Morse Code wireless.
Every member of the crew lay dead with their eyes wide open and their mouths agape, as if they had witnessed some unspeakable horror before their deaths. No apparent cause for their deaths could be observed. How did they die? Pirates were ruled out because none of the bodies showed any signs of wounds or injury. There was no blood.
The Silver Star decided the thing to do was to tow the Ourang Medan back to port where the mystery could be sorted out. Before they could leave the area, however, smoke began billowing from below decks of the Ourang Medan followed by a tremendous explosion that shattered the ship and sent it quickly to the ocean floor.
Exactly what killed the crew of the Ourang Medan remains unexplained. One possible explanation is that the crew was overcome by methane gas that bubbled up from the ocean floor and enveloped the ship. More fantastic speculations blamed extraterrestrials. In any case, the deaths aboard the Ourang Medan have never been conclusively explained – and perhaps never will.