The Mystery Of Ship

MV Joyita was a 69 foot long wood ship built in 1931 as a luxury yacht by the Wilmington Boat Works in Los Angeles for film director Roland West, who named the ship for his wife, movie actress Jewel Carmen “joyita” being a spanish phrase for “little jewel”.

In 1936 the ship was sold and registered to Milton E. Beacon. During this time, she made numerous trips to Mexico and to the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. In October 1941 she was acquired by the US Navy. In 1943 she ran aground and sustained severe damage but the Navy was in desperate need of patrol ships. As a result she was repaired and refitted with new iron pipes. In 1948, Joyita was sold in a private sell to the firm of Louis Brothers. She was fitted with a cork hull lining and brand new refrigeration.

5:00 AM on October 3 1955, Joyita left Samoa’s Apia harbor en route to the Tokelau Islands, which lay 270 miles away from her departure location. The boat had been scheduled to depart at noon the day before. However due to engine failure she was delayed 24 hours.

The Joyita did eventually leave Apia harbor but with only a single working engine. She was carrying sixteen crew members and nine passengers 25 people in total. Her passengers included a politician, a doctor a merchant and two children. Her cargo consisted of medical supplies, timber, numerous oil drums, and food

The journey was expected to last somewhere between 41-48 hours. Joyita was scheduled to arrive at her destination on October 5. On October 6 workers at Fakaofo port made an official report that the vessel wasn’t on schedule as intended. A search and rescue mission was immediately launched with the help of the of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Over the next couple of day vast swatches of sea was searched. But no sign of Joyita or those she carried was found.

A few weeks later, on November 10, Gerald Douglas captain of the ship Tuvalu, which had been en route from Suva to Funafuti, saw Joyita drifting just north of the island of Vanua Levu. Hundreds of miles from her pre-planned course. The ship was listing on her port side and half submerged in surrounding the sea. No passengers or crew members were on board. But a few tons of her cargo was uncounted for. Those who board Joyita made note that her radio had been switch to 2182 kHz. Which is the international maritime distress channel. Later on during an investigation it was found a cable was broken inside the radio. This would of made any braodcast reach only a few miles.

She sustained structure damage including her bridge being smash ,port side railing which washed away and minor damage to the deckhouse along with a few shattered windows.

On further investigation it was aslo found that a canvas awning had been rigged on top of the deckhouse behind the bridge. Both her life rafts plus her dinghy were gone. Mattresses covered the starboard engine while the port engine’s clutch was found partially dismantled. The starter motor of the starboard auxiliary engine was also missing. An auxiliary pump had been rigged in the engine room, mounted on a wooden plank which than had been slotted between the main engines.

The electronic clocks on board had stopped working at 10:25 and the switches for the cabin lighting system and navigation lights were turn on, implying that whatever took place likely occurred during night hours. No logbook or navigational gear could be found anywhere. The guns which were kept in the boat were missing to

A doctor’s bag was found on deck, inside contain a stethoscope, scalpel blood-stoaked bandages. There was still fuel in Joyita’s tanks; from the amount used, it was calculated she traveled 243 miles. Before the vessel was abandoned, possibility within less than a 100 miles of Tokelau’s shore.

Although Joyita was found with her bilges and lower decks flooded, her hull was dry and once the water was pumped from her hull she Eventually she was towed into a harbor on Suva. When tethered to mooring investigators heard the sound of water entering the vessel again.

It was found that a pipe in the port auxiliary engine’s cooling system had experience failure due to rusting. This flaw allowed salt water into the bilges. The first the crew would have known about the leak was when the water rose above the engine room floorboards, by which time it would have been nearly impossible to locate the water leakage Also, the bilge pumps were not fitted with strainers, and had become clogged with debris. Which would of made pumping out water difficult to accomplish.

Theories abound including that the boat’s occupants were kidnapped by a Russian submarine or taken by Japanese fishermen. The crew lead a munity against their captain. That the captain become crazed or wounded leading all aboard to abandon ship. Early new reports ran false reports the Joyita had been in a collision some speculating that she had been hit on purpose . Others wildly claimed pirates had launched an attacked killingand theifing.

A formal inquiry into the fate of Joyita was held in Apia in February 1956. The Inquiry found that the vessel was in a state of disrepair, but determined that the fate of the passengers and crew was “inexplicable on the evidence submitted at the inquiry.”

An especially puzzling thing was that the three liferafts Joyita carried were missing, but it would not make sense for the people onboard to willingly abandon their boat.

The inquiry was able to establish only the reasons for the vessel becoming flooded. It found that the vessel would have begun to flood due to the fractured cooling pipe. The bilge pumps were unworkable due to a blockeage. Joyita lacked watertight bulkheads or subdivisions in the bilges. The water would have gradually flooded the bottom decks. As the ship started to sink the one remaining engine would not have been able to maintain enough speed to steer. Joyita would of remained safloat due to her lined hull

The official inquiry also placed much of the blame on Captain Miller. Officials found Miller at fault for reckless such asbsetting out on an voyage with only one working engine and numerous obvious faults in the ship it’s self.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top