Of the three men's fate we found no trace
October 29, 2015 11:07 AM   Subscribe

"In December 1900, a boat called Hesperus set sail for the island of Eilean Mor, one of the seven islets (also known as the “Seven Hunters”) of the Flannan Isles off the coast of northwestern Scotland. Captain James Harvey was tasked with delivering a relief lighthouse keeper as part of a regular rotation. The journey was delayed a few days by bad weather, and when Harvey and his crew finally arrived, it was clear that something was awry. None of the normal preparations at the landing dock had been made, the flagstaff was bare, and none of the keepers came to greet the Hesperus. The keepers, as it turned out, weren’t on the island at all. All three of them had vanished. "

More at Historic UK (linked within the Mental Floss article) and at H2G2 (linked in a MeFi comment in 2008).

Wilfrid Gibson's poem inspired by the events.
posted by davidjmcgee (35 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
As a child, I somehow ended up with a large hardback copy of Time's Mysteries of the Unexplained. I remember the entry about this. It's wonderfully unnerving.

There is a non-supernatural book called Seamanship by Adam Nicolson, and he talks about visiting a couple of the more remote islands off Northern Scotland (Robert Macfarlane has also done the same in The Wild Places or The Old Ways, I can't remember which). In any case, there is a palpable sense of wildness, remoteness, eeriness, and it was no wonder that monks traveled to them to feel closer to God. With nothing but the wind, water, and the cry of seabirds, I am sure they felt like they were touching something supernatural (or supranatural, I suppose).
posted by Kitteh at 11:18 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eldritch symbols and inhuman writing were discovered inside the lighthouse. Representatives of the Order of Dagon were unavailable for comment at the time of this report.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:18 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is wonderfully creepy.

But the explanation does seem to be that they were washed away.

That would also explain the coat left behind.

Two of them were out together securing the box or whatever while the third stayed behind as required. Something happened and perhaps they were screaming for help as they were getting washed away. The third keeper of course ran out, not bothering to lose time by grabbing his coat, attempted somehow to save his colleagues and got washed away himself.
posted by vacapinta at 11:27 AM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Was wondering what it looked like. Google Maps doesn't have much, but I found this doing a search on Flickr. Looks pretty damn desolate.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:33 AM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here it is on Google Maps.
posted by vacapinta at 11:36 AM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Looks pretty damn desolate.

And yet I'd happily go there for an extended length of time.
posted by Kitteh at 11:38 AM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


For those who want more information in audio format, Thinking Sideways and the Futility Closet podcasts both have episodes on this. As usually, TS is a little too credulous with their theories, but both episodes are very interesting.
posted by possibilityleft at 11:45 AM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Not a lot of Longfellow readers on the boat, I'm guessing. Either that, or remarkably unsuperstitious.

Strange things happen at sea.
posted by BWA at 11:45 AM on October 29, 2015




One of the most fascinating aspects of rogue or freak waves is that, despite centuries of reports, there was no scientific evidence or measurement of one beyond anecdotal evidence until 1995, when a rogue wave hit the Draupner oil platform and was recorded with a laser sensor.
posted by barchan at 11:48 AM on October 29, 2015 [16 favorites]


Tis the wrath of Lord Noral!
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:57 AM on October 29, 2015


I was going to say much the same as barchan has; this is now generally thought to be a rogue wave, and it's the second earliest on wikipedia's list of notable/likely rogue wave incidents.
posted by Vortisaur at 11:58 AM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oooh, reading about rogue waves gives my tummy a huge flutter of anxiety.
posted by Kitteh at 12:01 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am not saying it's aliens....
posted by TheLittlePrince at 12:06 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


"ALIENS" ...
posted by Windopaene at 12:27 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oooh, reading about rogue waves gives my tummy a huge flutter of anxiety.

I admit I am a total fool, but seeing a freak wave in real life is one of the natural phenomenon I most desperately would like to experience. I've longed dreamt of going around one of the Capes on a cargo ship to up my chances, and I get pretty excited every time I go to the North Sea that this might be the trip.

You can lose a lot of time watching big waves hitting ships (another, North Sea, language) or the damage on youtube. I'm glad of the, uh, cheer, in some of the voices because I feel like I would have the same reaction.

There's also a great book about rogue waves by Susan Casey called The Wave.
posted by barchan at 12:33 PM on October 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


The answers to this mystery lie in Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach Trilogy.
posted by nikoniko at 1:01 PM on October 29, 2015 [13 favorites]


Kraken, obviously.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:02 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, the island looks exactly like I pictured it after listening to the Thinking Sideways episode.
posted by Braeburn at 1:16 PM on October 29, 2015


Meteor strike? I wonder if there were sightings over Canada, the US, or Greenland at that time?
posted by Oyéah at 1:18 PM on October 29, 2015


Clearly it was Zygons.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 1:36 PM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Was wondering what it looked like. Google Maps doesn't have much, but I found this doing a search on Flickr. Looks pretty damn desolate.

Confusingly, there's more than one Eilean Mòr (the Gaelic name just means "big island"). That gallery is of the Eilean Mòr just of the west coast of Scotland (between Jura of the Inner Hebrides and the coast).

It's kind of like when you're going around Scotland and you keep passing towns named Tarbert, which means "portage". It's also interesting and scary to think that, as stark as the picture in that Flickr album looks, that's practically metropolitan compared to the Eilean Mòr out past the *Outer* Hebrides...
posted by aught at 1:53 PM on October 29, 2015


i have your lightkeepers. if you ever want to see them alive again, you'll deliver to me the head of Trump on a platter. actually, a paper plate will do.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:53 PM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


The SCP Foundation regrets the anomalous disappearances of multiple individuals throughout history resulting from to recovery operations related to the events of Nov 8, 2015.

Unfortunately because of causality conflicts with relapse prevention measures we are unable fully restore all individuals to the active chronology. Paradoxically because of other causal relationships we are also unable to fully delete these individuals from history. Regrettably this has resulted in the subjective experience of an anaomolous disappearance of affected individuals from the point of view of witnesses and investigators.

We understand that these disappearances can have a traumatic effect on those left behind. If you or a loved one is struggling as a result of this, please contact SCP Foundation councilors to discuss therapeutic options.
posted by humanfont at 1:55 PM on October 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


Is no one doing the obligatory George Harrison song?

Actually looks like that's a different Hesperus.
posted by leotrotsky at 2:04 PM on October 29, 2015




Here's a picture of the Flannan Isles. Not only are these islands remote, but they're pretty small, which seems to me would make for a huge feeling of claustrophobia for people living there for long periods of time (particularly in the winter, when the story took place, when as I understand it the weather off the west coast of Scotland is notoriously severe) .Personally, it doesn't sound all that mysterious to me, having heard tales of how harsh the seas can get in the Hebrides and given the severe damage they found to structures on the west side of the island.

Here's another gallery of the islands. They look starkly beautiful.
posted by aught at 2:06 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is no one doing the obligatory George Harrison song?


Is no one doing the obligatory Groucho Marx song?
posted by grobstein at 2:29 PM on October 29, 2015


From the topographical anomaly found nearby:
Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dimlit halls of other places forms that never were and never could be writhe for the impatience of the few who never saw what could have been. In the black water with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth. The shadows of the abyss are like the petals of a monstrous flower that shall blossom within the skull and expand the mind beyond what any man can bear, but whether it decays under the earth or above on green fields, or out to sea or in the very air, all shall come to revelation, and to revel, in the knowledge of the strangling fruit—and the hand of the sinner shall rejoice, for there is no sin in shadow or in light that the seeds of the dead cannot forgive. And there shall be in the planting in the shadows a grace and a mercy from which shall blossom dark flowers, and their teeth shall devour and sustain and herald the passing of an age. That which dies shall still know life in death for all that decays is not forgotten and reanimated it shall walk the world in the bliss of not-knowing. And then there shall be a fire that knows the naming of you, and in the presence of the strangling fruit, its dark flame shall acquire every part of you that remains.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:58 PM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Home-ported in the town where I now live is a US Coast Guard Cutter named after one of the casualties of the Scotch Cap Lighthouse disaster.

It's difficult to remember how insignificant we are, as individuals, on the planetary scale. Every so often, however, nature comes along with a spectacular and memorable demonstration to remind us..
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:04 PM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Home-ported in the town where I now live is a US Coast Guard Cutter named after one of the casualties of the Scotch Cap Lighthouse disaster.

Stories like this and the one in the FPP link give me the willies. We had to do tsunami drills when I was in elementary school, and it was scary to look at historical photos of how high waves could reach.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:36 PM on October 29, 2015


SecretAgentSockPuppet: Clearly it was Zygons.

Surely you mean Rutans?

Seriously, the Doctor Who serial The Horror of Fang Rock, in which a shapeshifting Rutan scout stranded on Earth kills a number of people stranded in an Edwardian lighthouse, was directly inspired by this incident and the Wilfrid Gibson poem. The Doctor even quotes the poem at the end.

Also inspired by the poem: the adventure game Dark Fall: Lights Out, which quotes it copiously. Although it may be fairer to say that it was inspired by The Horror of Fang Rock; it takes a sci-fi twist early on and the later portions of the game are full of blatant Doctor Who call-outs.
posted by baf at 9:21 PM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'd forgotten this till just now, but my grandmother used to say "I look like the Wreck of the Hesperus" when she wasn't happy with how she looked. Used to crack me up.
posted by tangerine at 10:13 PM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd forgotten this till just now, but my grandmother used to say "I look like the Wreck of the Hesperus" when she wasn't happy with how she looked. Used to crack me up.

My mom would say that about me when she considered me unfit to leave the house! Where did that start, I wonder?
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 2:43 AM on October 30, 2015


Theres a 1980 chamber opera by Peter Maxwell Davies, The Lighthouse, which was inspired by this. It's quite creepy.
posted by Azara at 5:53 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


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