There is something about an abandoned ship, a rusted hulk, drifting in the open ocean that spurs the curiosity, stimulates some primal urge to explore, to know. A ship, any ocean-going vessel, is expensive; even after a ship’s typical 30-year service life, it still holds value in salvageable equipment and even further along, even corroded metal can be sold for scrap.
So then, why would anyone abandon a ship to the rigours of the high seas? Why would someone simply throw away something with intrinsic value when they could exchange it for something?
Assuredly, some ships are abandoned due to causes outside the control: an accident that kills the crew, the ship is stricken with disease, or perhaps the crew thought it would be safer to abandon the vessel. In circumstances such as these, it is usually clear why the vessel has been abandoned and the abandonment is temporary while someone attempts to regain the vessel, if for nothing else, to recoup some losses from whatever misadventure befell the ship. Sometimes, however, the reason is unclear and there is nobody searching for the vessel.
Built in Kiev in 1986 at a massive shipbuilding complex known as Lenin’s Forge, the Ulan was destined to join the Baltic Sea fishing fleet. For 30 years the Ulan brought countless crews to fertile northern fishing waters and managed to outlive the country that built her. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, she left state service and found her way to private ownership. Without the state-enforced regulations holding sway, the various owners of the Ulan changed their tack towards more profitable fishing ventures.
With an unremarkable record spanning near 20 years since she left her home waters, the career and life of the Ulan went almost entirely unnoticed until she was abandoned. Maritime law is fairly specific when it comes to salvage rights, so it is likely that the Ulan was stripped and raided by scavengers who would prefer to leave no record after she was left to drift as a wave-washed hulk.
In the months after she was abandoned she became known as a hazard to navigation. Winds and currents kept her near where she was likely originally abandoned, in a busy shipping lane near a fitting place: a graveyard for ships. In those months of drifting in the sight of beached, husks of ships, the Ulan moved onto a different form of service, a floating island home to vast colonies of seabirds.
Nothing lasts forever, and whatever secrets the Ulan may have had are gone now, the vessel was broken up for scrap with only the merest mention of date and time being recorded.