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In February 1948 (or June 1947, depending on which source one consults) a series of distress calls were sent out by the Dutch freighter Orang Medan in the Straits of Malacca between Sumatra and Indonesia.
"All officers including captain dead, lying in chartroom and on bridge, probably whole crew dead... " This chilling message, accompanied by a spate of desperate SOS calls, was followed by indecipherable Morse code... then a final message just two stark words "I die."
Boarding parties found the dead radio operator, his hand on the Morse key, eyes wide open. The entire crew even the ship's dog were discovered in the same terrified posture, all dead.
According to a frequently mentioned document (which I have so far been unable to trace) called The Proceedings of the Merchant Marine Council, the crew were found "teeth bared, with their upturned faces to the sun, staring, as if in fear..."
Following this grim discovery, a fire broke out in the ship's hold.
The boarding parties were forced to abandon her. Shortly after, a violent explosion described in some accounts as so violent the vessel "lifted herself from the water" and she quickly sank.
What follows is pure speculation, but there is a tantalising, possible explanation as to her crew's demise and her disappearance from the records. Mielke mentions a mixed, lethal cargo on the Dutchman 'Zyankali' (potassium cyanide) and nitroglycerine ... The Nazis as history has shown made horrific use of the extermination gas 'ZyklonB' but, according to Albert Speer in his book Inside the Third Reich (1995), they also had stockpiled a secret gas called 'Tabun' and, as late as 1944, were manufacturing 1,000 tons of this deadly substance each month. According to Speer: "It could penetrate the filters of all known gas masks and contact with even small lingering quantities had fatal effects..."
What killed the crew ?