Thursday, October 27, 2005

The M.V. Joyita

Today I want to take a brief look into the strange incident involving the M.V. Joyita, which was a merchant vessel that was the site of the mysterious disappearance of 25 passengers and crew in 1955. Here is what I know…

The 69 foot (21 m) wooden ship was built in 1931 as a luxury yacht by the Wilmington Boat Works in Los Angeles, California for movie tycoon Roland West.

In 1941, she was commandeered by the United States Navy and taken to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to be outfitted as a patrol boat. She was used by the Navy in the South Pacific campaign during World War II.

Dr. Katharine Luomala of the University of Hawaii bought the ship in 1952 and chartered the boat to her friend, Captain T. H. "Dusty" Miller, a British born sailor living in Samoa. Miller used the ship as a trading and fishing charter boat.

About 5:00 AM on October 3, 1955, the Joyita left Samoa's Apia harbor bound for the Tokelau Islands, about 270 miles (430 km) away. The boat was scheduled to leave on the noon tide the previous day, but her departure was delayed for an unknown reason. She was carrying 16 crew members and 9 passengers including two children. Her cargo consisted of lumber, empty oil drums, as well as various foodstuffs.

The Joyita was scheduled to arrive in the Tokelau Islands on October 5. On October 6, a message from Fakaofo Port reported that the ship was overdue.

A search and rescue mission was launched and from October 6 - 12 the Royal New Zealand Air Force covered nearly 100,000 square miles (260,000 km²) of ocean during its search, but no sign of the Joyita or any of her passengers or crew were found.

Five weeks later, on November 10, Gerald Douglas, captain of the merchant ship Tuvalu, enroute from Suva to Funafuti sighted the Joyita more than 600 miles (1,000 km) from its scheduled route. The ship was partially submerged and there was no trace of any of the passengers or crew; four tons of cargo were also missing.

A subsequent inquiry found that the vessel was in a poor state of repair, but determined that the fate of the passengers and crew was "inexplicable on the evidence submitted at the inquiry". The Fiji Times and Herald quoted at the time from an "impeccable source" to the effect that the Joyita had passed through a fleet of Japanese fishing boats during its trip and "had observed something the Japanese did not want them to see".

The Joyita is sometimes referred to as the "Mary Celeste of the South Pacific" and has been the subject of several books and documentaries. It seems there is really no end of stories about ill fated sailing vessels in our big weird world.

I’m Average Joe


1 comment:

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