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Ships sink in the Laoye Temple waters. Lots of them. This is a phenomenon that has been happening since ancient time, thousands of fishing boats, cargo transporters, and military vessels have been lost. Many go down with no apparent cause at all, they are just sucked down into the abyss below. This area on the east flank of Poyang Lake in China’s Jiangxi province is also known as the “waters of death,” “devil horns,” and the “Bermuda Triangle of the East.” Some say that the ships are sunk by abnormal wind patterns, others say that it’s because of whirlpools, some say it’s magnetic fields causing lightening strikes, while others reach more ominous or mysterious conclusions. Whatever the case, these are some of the most treacherous waters in the world.
Laoye Temple sits before a 24 km channel of water which connects Poyang Lake, the largest freshwater lake in China, with the Ganjiang River’s exit point. It sits between 28.22′ – 29.45′ degrees N latitude, roughly the same as that of the Bermuda Triangle in the Caribbean. To go from the Yangtze River to the Pearl River Delta by inland waterways, you go travel through Poyang Lake. To get through Poyang Lake you must go through this channel, which tapers down from a width of 15 km to 3 km directly in front of the temple, is the only way to get to get through here. Likewise, these notorious waters have been a major transport route since the days of China’s ancient porcelain trade.
On April 16, 1945, a Japanese transport ship called the Kobe Maru was ferrying more than 200 troops through the Laoye Temple waters on a calm bright and sunny day. It’s hold was full of plunder — antiques, paintings, gold, silver, and pearls. Suddenly the weather turned foul, and a huge tide rose up, breaking the ship into pieces and sucking it down into the depths of the lake. As soon as the ship was gone the weather cleared, the winds ceased, and the sun again shone as if nothing had happened. The Japanese navy immediately sent a rescue team under the command of Colonel Tomohisa. The lake was only 30 meters deep at that time of year, and seven divers went down looking for the lost ship and its treasure. The Colonel was the only man to return. Though he did so a very changed man. The reports state that he was thereafter unresponsive, suffered severe memory lost, and was subsequently carded as insane.
In the summer of 1946, after the Japanese had been expelled from China and the war was over, the Nationalist government of China invited the accomplished American diver and salvage expert, Edward Boer (or Bolton, depending on the source), out to Poyang to find the remains of the Kobe Maru. Treasure ships may be lost but they are rarely forgotten. The spoils were sitting just 30 meters below the lake’s surface, and by all accounts should have been easy picking. But after months of diving and the loss of two divers the search revealed nothing. Boer (Bolton) himself declined to speak about what had transpired until he published the account in the United Nation Environment News 40 years later. He said that during a dive his team was assailed by a dazzling bright light and a high-pitched screeching sound coming from the water’s depths. The lake, he claimed, felt as though it was shaking, and he was pulled into a vortex. He momentarily went dizzy and lost consciousness, but was soon startled awake upon striking a reef. He hung on helplessly and watched as a gyrating bright light on the lake bottom sucked in the other divers. They were never seen again.