In this, the fourth installment of my Lesser Known Mysteries
series, I present a pair of lesser known maritime mysteries. Though these events
took place thousands of miles and decades apart, there are elements common to both that I felt made for a worthwhile pairing.
Bouvet Island Lifeboat
Bouvet Island, the opposite of an island paradise.
Bouvet Island is the most remote island in the world. From Wikipedia
Bouvet Island (Norwegian: Bouvetøya, previously spelled Bouvet-øya) is an uninhabited subantarctic volcanic island and dependency of
Norway located in the South Atlantic Ocean at 54°25.8'S 3°22.8'. It lies at the southern end of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and is the most remote
island in the world, approximately 2,200 kilometres (1,400 mi) south-southwest of the coast of South Africa and approximately 1,700 kilometres
(1,100 mi) north of the Princess Astrid Coast of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica.
The island has an area of 49 square kilometres (19 sq mi), of which 93 percent is covered by a glacier. The centre of the island is an ice-filled
crater of an inactive volcano. Some skerries and one smaller island, Larsøya, lie along the coast. Nyrøysa, created by a rock slide in the late
1950s, is the only easy place to land and is the location of a weather station.
Initially discovered in 1739 by Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier, commander of the French ships Aigle
, it was believed
to be not an island, but the northern cape of the hypothesized continent, Terra Australis
its location was inaccurately recorded. Various expeditions attempted to locate the island afterward, but even the efforts of the legendary
Captain James Cook
failed to find it. It wasn't discovered again until 1808 by a British whaler,
James Lindsay, captain of the ship Snow Swan
, who being a quite modest man, named it Lindsay Island. The next alleged visit was by an American,
Benjamin Morrell, a seal hunter and captain of the Wasp
who claimed to have hunted 196 seals on the island but whether or not he actually
visited the island is disputed as his description contains no mention of its permanent ice cover.
In 1825, the island was next visited by British sealer George Norris, with his ships the Sprightly
. A nearby reef,
is named for him. In voyages in 1843 and 1845, even the famed explorer
was unable locate Bouvet Island. It wasn't until 1898, when the German survey
, captained by Kapitan Krech and part of an expedition led by Karl Chun, reached the island that the proper coordinates were fixed
on navigation maps. The history of Bouvet island is one of controversial land claims and a fair share of mystery — including an associated phantom
island, Thompson Island
, which was reportedly found some 45 miles away by
However, for our purposes, it suffices to say that it is the most remote tract of land in all of the ocean and a very inhospital one at that — which
might explain why the UK dropped their potests to the 1928 annexation of the island by Norway (few people seem less bothered by icy, inhospitable
conditions than Norwegians!). The Norwegians erected a hut and a flagpole in 1929 at Kapp
, a small rocky peninsula named for The Feast of the
. The island was next visited in 1955 by the South African frigate Transvaal
. Sometime after this visit and before 1958, the
largest ice-free area on the island, Nyrøysa (Norwegian for "New Rubble"), was created by a landslide (maybe.. if a landslide occurs on the remotest
island in the world and nobody sees it, did it make a beach?).
And here, on this teenie-tiny, rock-strewn patch of desolation, on the most remote island in the world, Allan Crawford, captain of the
landed in a helicopter on April 2nd, 1964 and discovered a 20-foot life
boat and other signs of human occupation. From his account:
What drama, we wondered, was attached to this strange discovery. There were no markings to identify its origin or nationality. On the rocks a
hundred yards away was a forty-four gallon drum and a pair of oars, with pieces of wood and a copper flotation or buoyancy tank opened out flat for
some purpose. Thinking castaways might have landed, we made a brief search but found no human remains.
The mysterious Bouvet Island Lifeboat
How had the boat come to be there a thousand miles or more from the nearest shipping lane? What had become of the man or men who had rowed it? Where
they castaways? Survivors of a sunken whaling ship? With no other shelter in sight, why was the boat drug up into the lagoon but not out of the
Clearly to hammer flat the copper tank, somebody was preparing to be there for some amount of time. We are left with only questions —
questions unlikely to ever have answers. When the island was next visited by a biological expedition 2 years later, there was no mention made of the
boat or the objects found in 1964. There is an excellent post by author and historian Mike Dash
, with loads of
additional background and some hypotheses at his blog: A
Blast from the Past - An abandoned lifeboat at world’s end
edit on 2014-9-15 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)