The Fishing Boat is a scary Japanese urban legend about a small ship that went missing off the coast of Japan in 1926. It was finally discovered off the coast of Canada in 1927. In Japan, this story is known as “The Ryou-ei-maru Incident”.
October 31, 1927, Vancouver Island off the West Coast of Canada. An American cargo ship called the Margaret Dollar was returning to the Port of Seattle in Washington, when it came across a small Japanese fishing boat that had been missing. The name of the boat was “Ryou-ei-maru”.
Mummy ship discovered
The fishing boat was in a terrible state. The hull was in tatters and strewn across the deck were mummified remains, skeletonized bodies, corpses without legs. There was an intense stench of death and decay in the air.
In the cabin, there was a mummified, skeletonized body with a crushed skull. The walls of the cabin were covered in bloodstains. In the kitchen room, the white feathers of seagulls lay scattered on the ground. Some oil cans were on top of the stove and one of them contained a human arm. There was no food or drinking water on board. The engine was completely destroyed and rusted.
However, three yellowed notebooks were found in the captain’s room, and they contained a devastating account of what happened on the Ryou-ei-maru. It was unbelievable. Here is the information contained in those notebooks:
The unfortunate fishing boat
December 5, 1926: The Ryou-ei-maru set sail from Misaki Port in Kanagawa prefecture with a crew of 12 people. The owner is Fujii Sanshiro, the captain is Miki Tokizo and Hosoi Denjiro is the chief engineer. The ship has a single mast and weighs 9 tons.
December 6: We were going in search of tuna off the coast of Choshi in Chiba Prefecture. The weather conditions were very bad and the engine was making strange sounds. We docked at Choshi Port to have the engine checked but no problems were found. We set sail again and landed a large amount of tuna off the coast of Choshi, but we were hit by a storm that made it impossible to navigate. Over the next few days, the boat was washed over 1000 miles east off the coast of Choshi.
December 15, We saw another ship appear on the horizon. It was named the Kishu. Even though we sent signals and screamed out as it passed, there was no response. Captain Miki decided to allow the boat to drift. There was enough food on board to last 4 months.
December 16, Another ship called the “Oriental Steamer” passed us. We signalled and shouted, but again there was no response. Efforts were made to try to return to Japan somehow, but no matter what we did, we were forced in the opposite direction. The crew began to despair. All we can do is wait until another steamer passes by. The captain has decided to allow the winds to help the boat drift to America. However, he says that for a fishing boat to sail northeast is more difficult than the journey of Christopher Columbus to discover America.
December 27: We fished for tuna.
January 27: We put out buckets to collect rainwater. We were hoping to use it as drinking water, but it rained very little.
February 17: Our food supplies are dangerously low.
March 6: Our stores of food are at the bottom. Only one fish. The Grim Reaper and terrible hunger come gradually…
March 7: Chief engineer, Hosoi Denjiro has died. He passed away while groaning, “I want to touch the soil of Japan again… I want to see it again… just a glance”. We buried him at sea.
March 9: We managed to catch a single big shark, but Naoe Tsunetsugi had no energy to eat. He died emaciated. We buried him at sea.
March 15: Izawa Satsugi, who had been keeping the ship’s logbook, died from an illness. Matsumoto Gennosuke is taking over in his place. We buried Izawa at sea. It is only a matter of time until we all perish. We are all pale-faced with long beards, walking unsteadily around the boat like sad ghosts.
March 27: Two men – Yokota Yoshinosuke and Terada Hatsuzo – suddenly became delirious, shouting, “Hey! We are in America! I can see a rainbow!” It is madness. They began biting and gnawing on planks of wood. The worst pit of hell is finally close.
March 29: Yoshida Fujiyoshi caught a big tuna fish. Mitani Torakichi went into a sudden frenzy. He grabbed an axe and swung it at the head of Yoshida Fujiyoshi. It was horrific, but none of us had the energy to stand up and stop him. We just stared in stunned silence. Those of us who remain have scurvy from lack of vegetables and there is blood on our teeth. We look like monsters. Oh, Buddha help us!
April 4: Captain Miki caught a bird that flew low over the deck. He reached up and grabbed it with the speed of a snake. Everyone flocked around him like man-eating ants, tearing off the feathers and devouring it alive. Our mouths were dripping with blood and raw meat. Nothing could be so delicious. This is how men turn into beasts.
April 6: Tsujimon Ryoji died spitting and puking up blood.
April 14: Sawamura Kanjuro unexpectedly went mad and turned violent. He started chopping up the corpses and eating human flesh. Is this hell?
April 19, Two people – Kazuo Toyama and Sawamura KanJuro fought over the human flesh in the kitchen. They were like demons out of hell. The rest of us just want to live to see Japan again. That night, the two men died tumbling around on the floor covered in blood.
May 6, Captain Miki and myself are the only two survivors of the 12 who set sail. We are both very ill with beri-beri and we cannot move even one step. We are so dehydrated we can’t even pee.
May 11, A mighty little wind from the Northwest. It is cloudy. West and south, the boat floats with the wind. No mountains are visible. No land is visible. No other ships. There is only the stench of death and the mushy, rotting flesh and blood of our dead friends. Their bodies are nothing but skeletons. We are at the end of the world…
The log ends here.
However, when you examine the records, a bizarre fact comes to light. While the crew of the fishing boat claimed they didn’t meet another ship and nobody responded to their signals, that cannot be true. Also, the Ryou-ei-maru crossed the Pacific Ocean and claimed they were not able to find even one island. How could that be?
The strangest thing of all was a statement made by Captain Richard Healy of the US cargo ship “West Aeson”:
“December 23, 1926, We found a wooden boat drifting on the waves in the Pacific Ocean about 1000 km from Seattle. Even though it was close, there was no reply to our rescue signals. The name of the boat was Ryou-ei-maru. About 10 sailors stood on the deck staring at us, but not one of them replied to our calls.”
But this encounter is not mentioned in the records of the Ryou-ei-maru.
What in the world could have happened to them?