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Marine Sulphur Queen

Marine Sulphur Queen

SS Marine Sulphur Queen, T2 tanker ship converted to carrying molten sulphur, noted for its disappearance in 1963 near the southern coast of Florida, taking the lives of 39 crewmen.

In the investigation, the Coast Guard determined that the ship was unsafe and not seaworthy, and never should have sailed. The final report suggested four causes of the disaster, all due to poor design and maintenance of the ship. The loss of the ship was the subject of lengthy litigation between the owner and families of the missing men.

Despite the clear cause of the disaster, an inaccurate and incomplete version of the ship's disappearance is often used to justify Bermuda Triangle conspiracies.

However in 1960, this 524-foot tanker was converted into a carrier of molten sulphur. For that, they had to modify the ship's internal structure and build huge sulphur carrying tanks. These tanks would always be kept heated up at high temperatures so that the sulphur remained molten.

On February 2nd 1963, Marine Sulphur Queen started her ill fated voyage from Beaumont, Texas destined towards Norfolk. She was carrying over 15000 tons of molten sulphur and 39 crew members on board.

She was last heard on Feb 4th when a routine radio message was received from the ship. There was nothing unusual in the message. However subsequently when all efforts to communicate with the ship failed, a massive search operation was launched. After 19 days of sea combing operation, the rescue team found only some debris and life preservatives. There was no trace of the ship or its crewmen. The ship had simply disappeared somewhere in the south Florida Straits.

Investigation :

A Coast Guard investigation concluded several facts about the Marine Sulphur Queen which, by themselves, should have prevented the ship from going to sea at all. The most important were the incidents of fire beneath and along the sides of the four large sulphur tanks; according to former crewmen these fires were so common that ship's officers gave up sounding the fire alarm. On one occasion the ship sailed into a New Jersey harbor, off-loaded cargo, and sailed out with a fire still burning. When a fire was actually put out, the sulphur would puddle and cake around equipment, once shorting out a major electrical generator. Caked sulphur was also found in spaces below the tanks, due to many cracks in the structure.

The Coast Guard also noted that the T2 tanker class had a characteristic "weak back", meaning the keel would split at a point weakened by corrosion, usually around midships. Such a splitting had happened on several T2 tankers, and many were discovered during inspections to have hairline or larger fractures within the keel and on major frames. Companies who owned T2 tankers were ordered to pay attention to the keel when inspecting. Former crewmen also testified that corrosion was everywhere, mentioning inoperable temperature gauges, a ruptured steam coil, and worn packing around the screws. It was recorded that Marine Sulphur Queen was scheduled for a drydock inspection in January, 1963, but it was postponed by the owners, who had complained that cargo deliveries were behind and they needed their ships to catch up. One new crewman, on reporting to the ship just before it sailed for the last time, turned to his wife and pronounced it "a floating garbage can."

In the closing of the inquiry, it came as no surprise that the Coast Guard had this to say:

1. In view of the vast search operations conducted and the debris found and identified as coming from the MARINE SULPHUR QUEEN, the ship and her entire crew of 39 men are presumed to be lost.

2. Concurring with the Board, the vessel apparently was lost on 4 February 1963 on its approach to, or in the vicinity of, the Straits of Florida.

3. Further concurring with the Board, in the absence of survivors or physical remains of the ship, the exact cause of the loss of the MARINE SULPHUR QUEEN cannot be determined.

4. The Board considered many possibilities which may have caused the loss of the ship and rightly declined to assign any order of probability to these causes. In its conclusions the Board commented on the following possible causes:

a. An explosion may have occurred in the cargo tanks.

b. A complete failure of the vessel's hull girder may have caused it to break in two

c. The vessel may have capsized in synchronous rolling

d. A steam explosion may have occurred as the result of a rapid filling of the void space with water.

The record contains ample evidence to support the Board's suppositions.

The Coast Guard also recommended that no remaining T2 tanker be converted into a sulphur carrier without taking into consideration the structure of the ship as originally built. "First, the acceptability of any conversion must be considered on its individual merits, having regard for the existing condition of the vessel and the proposed cargo, route, and service. Secondly, the objection to the conversion of an existing T2 or another tanker of comparable age is associated with the probable condition of the vessel, particularly the cargo portion, due to age, as much as it is due to design considerations."

Meril Jeffery John.J

Meril Jeffery John.J

If This is God's Will then no man can Fight it

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