The Welsh Ghost Ship Resolven

Covernautical chart 2Broadcast on CBC Canadian Radio about the Resolven mystery

Link to the Facebook page Ghost Ship of Trinity Bay (log in to Facebook needed)

In August 1884 sailors from  the Royal Navy vessel HMS Mallard was patrolling the fishing waters off Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, when she sighted the merchant ship Resolven, apparently adrift. She gave no answer to the Mallard’s signals, and on boarding her, the Navy sailors found that the ship was completely deserted, though there was no sign of damage or disturbance. There was a fire lit in the galley and food on the tables, but not a soul aboard. The lifeboat, too, was gone; for some unknown reason, the crew had simply abandoned their ship. She was salvaged, but the crew were never seen again.

The Resolven was a brig out of Aberystwyth in West Wales, sailing between  Welsh ports and Canada with cargoes of timber and cod. Her Captain was John James, Master Mariner, of Newquay.

Also missing from the ship was a large sum in gold coins, the Captain’s entire fortune. His widow died in poverty after making her small son promise one thing: that he would never go to sea.

After her discovery by HMS Mallard the ship was towed into the nearby port of Catalina, and eventually refitted and put out to sea again, but no trace was ever found of her crew. The mystery of this ship, which has been called the Welsh Mary Celeste, remains unexplained to this day.DSC00403

I am the great-grandson of Captain John James of the Resolven. The story of the ancestor who sailed away and never returned has always haunted me: I have spent years looking for clues about what may have happened to the crew of the ghost ship. Now it seems, thanks to social media and the Internet, that there may be some answers at last.

I was amazed to be contacted last year by a woman in Canada who had read about Captain James on this website and has shared with me her extraordinary story. She told me that her grandfather and his elder brother found the body of a man in Captain’s uniform on the coast of Newfoundland, in the same summer as the Resolven’s crew was lost.IMGP4167

The mystery man had died where he sat, under a tree on a remote island facing out over the ocean. He had nothing to identify him apart from an unusual gold pocket watch, now also vanished. The two brothers never reported their discovery to the authorities, and the unknown man was buried in a little fishing village long since abandoned.

The tale was passed down through generations of the family for well over a hundred years to the present. My contact also revealed that the elder brother of the two had suddenly become richer than all the rest of his community, for no obvious reason, and that when he died, his widow in her light headed old age began to spend a long-hidden hoard of gold sovereigns…

I am planning a return trip to Newfoundland this year (2015) – I am convinced that there is more to be discovered about this story.


Will Wain