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Since her maiden voyage in 1863, the Star of India has lived the kind of high sea life that most dream of living. She’s done it all and seen it all. But with great adventures come great dangers, and many sailors have not lived to tell the tale. Some have never even left the ship.
Many voyages have been taken on the Star of India as well as many lives. Many were unfortunately accidents. Others were not. These men died young and each have a story to tell. Perhaps they are still trying to tell them.
In 1909, the Star of India was making a return trip back from Alaska. A Chinese fisherman was guiding the massive anchor chain in position when he lost his balance in the chain locker.
His fellow crewmen were unable to hear his screams as he was crushed to death by thousands of pounds of cold steel.
There have been rumors that the man was actually murdered on the ship and placed into the locker to be crushed by the chains, erasing all evidence that a crime had ever taken place. However, there is no evidence to support the claims.
As for the locker itself, people have claimed to feel cold spots in the humid room. Others have claimed to feel a certain presence in the room as well. It’s widely believed that whatever is felt in the chain locker is the spirit of that poor fisherman.
In 1884, while pulling out of Glasgow, the Euterpe collided with the Canadian. The British ship pulled into port for extensive repairs, and three individuals snuck on board. One of them was young John Campbell, 14 years of age.
Instead of being thrown overboard or put in the brig, the captain allowed Campbell to stay aboard and earn his keep on the voyage.
Young John was eager to learn the trade, and became quite the seaman. On his off times, he would regularly play with the other children on board.
Yet, it was only a few months in where young John slipped a hundred feet from the top of the mast and landed on the deck below, broken and bloody and legs mangled. He died three days later.
Life on the high seas was met with an abrupt and agonizing end.
People have reported a feeling of something brushing up against them near where young John fell from the mast. Others have said they’ve felt a presence touch their backs. Perhaps it’s young John Campbell, gathering people ‘round to play one last game.
In December of 1875, Army Captain McBarnet was aboard the Euterpe, set for New Zealand from England. Reports claim he was drinking heavily before coming on board and was severely depressed.
Four days into the voyage, McBarnet slit his own throat. He was found in a pool of his own blood and was rushed to the ship’s surgeon where he was quickly stitched up and bandaged.
McBarnet was then put into the First Mate’s cabin and placed on watch. However, he was left alone for one solitary moment and he tore open his bandages and stitches, bleeding out and dying in the cabin.
At least that’s how the story goes.
There was indeed a Captain Mcbarnet who slit his throat and died aboard the Euterpe, but he died then and there in his own bunk. The tale about him tearing open his own bandages and stitches happened to another passenger who attempted to take his own life onboard.
And he survived.
Yet, there have been reports of very strange goings on in the First Mate’s cabin.
During a fourth grade overnight stay at the ship, one of the teachers claims that her blanket was ripped from her body in the middle of the night. She was staying in the First Mate’s cabin.
She also claimed to have felt the warm room grow cold and a strange presence in the room with her.
Perhaps the story has more validity than we thought. Or perhaps some other tragedy had taken place there. Whatever the truth is, seems like we’ll never know.
Built in Great Britain’s Isle of Man in 1863, the Star of India was somewhat experimental being made of iron as not many ships at this time were. During this time, and subsequently for the next 35 years, the Star of India was actually called the Euterpe, named after the great muse of music and poetry.
Commissioned to carry cargo from India to England, the Euterpe had a near disastrous maiden voyage. Several accidental collisions caused significant damage to the ship, which in turn caused a small mutiny to break out.
During the second trip, a cyclone severed the topmasts, and the ship barely made it back to port. It was also during this voyage that the Euterpe’s first captain died of scarlet fever.
The Euterpe would then spend the next 25 years as a charter ship to New Zealand. The emigrants aboard suffered through bouts of seasickness and a diet consisting of crackers and salted beef.
In 1898, the Euterpe was sold to the United States. It was here that she was christened the Star of India. Soon after, she became a salmon fishing boat off the coast of Alaska until her retirement in 1923.
In 1927, she was sold to the San Diego Zoological Society where she would have been fitted to be a floating aquarium. However, the Great Depression hit along with World War II and the plan never came to fruition.
Through the help of donations and community support, the Star of India was able to persevere through the decades of dormancy. It wasn’t until 1976 where she was fully restored.
Since then, the Star of India has proudly been docked at the Maritime Museum of San Diego for the past several years. She is a flagship of the museum’s tour and regularly still sails out about twice a year.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego is open daily, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Due to COVID-19, all below deck attractions and submarine tours are temporarily closed.
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