Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Sarah Joe Mystery: Disappearance in the Pacific

Sarah Joe
The Sarah Joe Mystery

We find several stories of various unexplained events in maritime history. Once such event is the Sarah Joe mystery which had started on 11th February 1979 when a group of five friends had boarded a Boston Whaler called Sarah Joe. The vessel is said to be 17 feet in length having an 85 horsepower engine and was unequipped for any main sea voyages. When the vessel had set off from the town of Hana on the Hawaiian island of Maui, its sailing conditions did not appear to be good.

 There was hardly any wind and the surface had been as smooth as glass. Towards noon, which was barely two hours of departure, the local weather seemed to get worse and none of the five members had checked on the local conditions of sailing or the weather reports. Instead they opted in keeping watch on the horizons.

This seems to be the usual practice with amateur sailors who only tend to be out to sea for some few hours. Had they checked on the weather conditions, they would have been aware of a major low pressure system which had been approaching the islands. Had the storm which had hit the town was an indication, then the conditions at sea would have been dreadful and most inappropriate for even the experts at sea.

No Trace of Whereabouts of Five Crew Members

Hurricane force winds together with torrential rain tossed the vessel around like a rag doll Numerous bigger fishing vessels seemed to make it back to port wherein reports recommended that the wells peaked at a height of around 40 feet, Though the hopes were bleak, none of the locals or relatives of the missing boat sat tight without making some attempt in the rescue operation.

 They sent a search along the coastline though the visibility seems to be poor but the weather conditions seemed to be very rough to search further till the storm had subsided. This mystery drove a massive search wherein the day after the disappearance of the vessel, the Coast Guard suggested the mission and over a period of time it developed into a huge fleet of ships, boats together with aircraft.

The search covered 70,000 square miles of ocean for five days though they were unable to trace the whereabouts of the five crew members or the boat. The main issue was that none knew in which direction the group had ventured or where they eventually ended up. Moreover the strong currents of the Alenuihaha Channel seemed to hinder their search.

Family/Relatives not Ready to Abandon Hopes

They also resorted in bringing in homing pigeons that had been specially trained in locating people that had been stranded out at sea. After around a week, the storm experts were of the opinion that the Sarah Joe had wrecked and sank with all on board.

However the family members and friends of the missing men were not ready to abandon their hopes and they combined their resources and cash in order to maintain a search for an additional three weeks. They focussed on some of the most remote islands with a hope of getting some information of the missing vessel though they did not get any trace of the boat or the missing men.

Eventually the search had been called off and the Sarah Joe mystery seemed to be a forgotten event. However years later some of the search party members had been on a routine wildlife mission in the uninhabited islands of the Western Pacific for the National Marine Fisheries Services. The Marshall Islands and the remote Taongi islands are about 2200 miles southwest of Hawaii.

Make-Shift Cross Designed from Driftwood

Biologist John Naughton got himself involved himself in this mystery on 10, September 1988 for the second time. He came across an abandoned fibreglass boat on the coastline while working at Taongi Island and he could only define a portion of the registration of the boat though it was sufficient to learn that it had come from somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. On investigating further, it had been established that Naughton had solved the mystery of what had taken place with Sarah Joe.

Many queries were raised since there was nothing in and around the vessel and they searched for signs of life, notes or sort of equipment which could provide some clues to the mysterious vessel. Unfortunately there were none and Naughton together with his team took some time to decide on the next thing to be done and decided to search the surrounding area. The team then made another discovery about a hundred yards from the boat wherein a make-shift cross designed from driftwood was seen sticking out of the top of a shallow grave together with a human jaw bone bulging from the direction post of coral and shingle stones.

Blank Pieces of Paper on Skeleton

On examining the grave closely, they envisaged blank pieces of paper on top of the skeleton which were loose though arranged like an open manuscript or book. Between the papers was something which Naughton later described as tinfoil. The pack of 3 inch square papers was about ¾ inch thick and did not have any function according to the biology team.

They jointly decided that any more excavation of the grave would be disrespectful and refrained from further attempts of digging. The jawbone sent to forensic lab for testing revealed that they were indeed of Scott Moorman while the other smaller bones discovered beyond the grave also seemed to match with those of Moorman. No other remains were discovered on the whole island. There seems to be much more on the mystery of Sarah Joe than the disappearance and then the appearance of one man out of the five.

 Since the boat was not well equipped and was designed for only coastal use, it seemed a mystery on how it survived one of the worst storms on record and landed on a desolate island many miles away. According to experts who tend to have a better comprehension state that the drift time between Hawaii and the Marshall Island could have been somewhere in the area of three months.

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