Sea legends are full of tales of phantom ships that travel across the seas navigated by a phantom equipage and predetermined not to anchor. The most famous of these stories is the one of the Mary Celeste. However, one of the spookiest tales is probably the secret of the Octavius. The legend starts in 1761 with the Octavius docked in London’s harbor that was supposed to be loaded with goods intended for China. This amazing cruising ship sailed away with a full equipage, the captain, and his family. They reached China without problems and left their load. The ship sailed away again as soon she was loaded with products intended for Britain, however as the climate was uncommonly warm, the skipper chose to cruise home using the Northwest Passage, a trip that at that moment had not been made. Since then, nobody heard anything about the ship and her equipage.
Octavius was pronounced missing.
October 11, 1775, the whale hunting ship Herald was sailing across the cold waters off Greenland when they noticed a cruising ship. When they approached the vessel, the equipage noticed that the ship was heavily affected by the weather – the sails were ragged and flapping flaccidly on the poles.
The skipper of the Herald requested a team to examine the ship, which they had decided was the Octavius. The team boarded and saw that it is abandoned. They open the vessel’s door by force and descended the stairs, where they saw a shocking view. They discovered all 28 members of the equipage iced-up in their rooms. In the quarter of the skipper, they discovered the skipper at his bureau, holding his pen and open ship’s diary. The inkstand and other objects were also untouched. On the way back, they found a frozen lady covered with blanket, together with a child.
The boarding team was frightened; taking the ship’s diary, they escaped the Octavius. In their frantic escape, they lost the frozen center pages of the diary and fell away. They got back on the Herald with only the first and last pages of the diary that were sufficient for the captain of the Herald to find out something about the voyage. Octavius’ skipper had attempted to sail across the Northwest Passage, however his vessel was trapped by the Arctic ice, and the whole team had died. The last noted position of the vessel was 75N 160W, which put the Octavius 250 miles north of Barrow, Alaska.
When Octavius had been discovered off the bank of Greenland, probably it got free from the ice at certain point and finished its cruise through Northwest Passage to turn out on the opposite side, where it encountered the Herald. Herald’s equipage was terrified by the Octavius and was afraid that it was damned, so they just abandon it floating. Until now, nobody saw it again.
Writer David Meyer has made an attempt to trace Octavius’ tale. In his blog, he writes that the Octavius is probably the same ship as the Gloriana, which sailed in 1775 led by the skipper of the Try Again, John Warrens. He wrote that he discovered a frozen equipage that had been dead for a long time and the time he found them was uncannily approximate – November 11, 1762. Is the same ship in question? In the tale of Gloriana, nothing is said about the Northwest Passage, which is still enigmatic and enchanted place however that does not give much to the story of Octavius.