Drawn to the Sea III: Ryou-Un Maru

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This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series Drawn to the Sea

Seafarers are a superstitious lot. If you put any faith in superstition or mythology, you might believe that the ruin of the Ryou-Un Maru was caused by a giant catfish of unworldly proportions.

Picture above in a ukiyo-e woodblock print, the Namazu (鯰) is the cause of Earthquakes in Japan when he shakes his tail in an attempt to free himself from the lawful detention of a Japanese deity.

On 11 March 2011 a massive earthquake occurred deep under the Pacific Ocean and caused a gigantic tsunami to wash over Japan causing destruction in its wake. While the devastation that was wrought by the surge of immense wave is undeniable, it also had the effect of dragging untold millions of tonnes of detritus, people, and effects into the ocean as the waters receded.

One of the things that was dragged out to sea was the Japanese fishing vessel, the Ryou-Un Maru. With a name that translates to Fishing Luck, the vessel was laid down in 1982 and with nearly 30 years of harvesting the bounty of the ocean, she was at the end of her service life when the disaster struck.

When the great wave retreated, the vessel that was already stricken from her owner’s registry and awaiting her final port of call at the scrapyard, began a ghostly journey across the ocean.

The “Ryou-Un Maru” is pictured above as a ghost ship off of the Alaskan Coast in early April 2012.

For more than a year the Ryou-Un Maru gently sailed across the Pacific Ocean using the cross-sea currents onto which the tsunami had deposited her. As she approached the West Coast of North America, she was spotted by a Canadian Armed Forces observation aircraft. After she was initially spotted, the warm Pacific currents pulled her North towards the coast of Alaska and into commercial shipping lanes.

With a crew of unruly ghosts unwilling to confirm with Maritime Law, the vessel without lights, markings, or sound was deemed to be a hazard to navigation, especially during the night where the vessel would be almost impossible to distinguish from any appreciable distance.

While she escape her fate in Japan, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) announced a plan to scuttle the vessel to remove any danger that it could pose.

The Canadian fishing vessel “Bernice C” inspects the “Ryou-Un Maru” under the watchful eyes of the USCG.

The former owners of the Ryou-Un Maru had relinquished all claims to the vessel, which meant that any could claim her. The crew of the Canadian fishing vessel the Bernice C laid claim to the ship as salvage, but after inspecting the ship, but disavowed their salvage claim on the basis that recovering the vessel would be too dangerous.

Nobody else with the means necessary to do so staked a salvage claim on the Ryou-Un Maru, so the USCG proceeded with their plan to eliminate the hazard to navigation.

Riddled with holes from the 25mm cannon shot from the USCG Cutter “Anacapa” the “Ryou-Un Maru” floats on fire with a list to Starboard.

With fuel tanks brimming with diesel, a superstructure damaged by corrosion, and with nowhere to bring the vessel, the USCG used the ghostly traveler as target practice, blasting the ship with cannon and machine-gun fire until the ship started sinking.

Her career and travels at an end, the “Ryou-Un Maru” takes on water after been shot repeatedly.

In a matter of hours the vessel slipped below the waves to come to her final resting place deep below the surface of the ocean.

USCG video of the shelling of the “Ryou-Un Maru” off the Alaskan Coast.

The unusual circumstances surrounding the final one-year ghostly voyage of the ship went neither unnoticed nor unappreciated. Aside from capturing the imagination of an untold number of people, the journey of the vessel led to the composition of a suitably eerie classical music piece by Gabriel Lubell.

The Curious Journey of the Ryō-un Maru by Gabriel Lubell
One last glimpse before eternity.


Series Navigation<< Drawn to the Sea II: УланDrawn to the Sea IV: Queen Hind >>
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