“Unfortunately, absolutely nothing has turned up, not an oil slick, a life jacket, a plank. Nothing.”– Coast Guard Official (1980)
A plaque memorializing the missing seamen of the SS Poet hangs in Gloria Dei Church in Philadelphia. Lottie Zukier Fredette, a congregant, organizes an annual service to honor the crew of this ship. Her son, Hans, was among those lost at sea. In our second curated exhibit, we explore the mysterious disappearance of this vessel.
This free exhibit is presented inside the Gloria Dei Church sanctuary, Tuesday through Sunday, 9 am to 4 pm. Here are some highlights:
How does a ship twice the length of a football field completely disappear? The answer may lie in its service history.
Originally named for distinguished serviceman General Omar Bundy, this troopship launched on Aug. 5, 1944 under a Maritime Commission contract.
The Bundy carried troops for the U.S. Navy during World War II. It was transferred to the Army in 1946 where it remained in service for 3 years.
In 1949, the Bundy entered the Naval Defense Reserve Fleet. It was docked in the James River and remained moored there for the next 15 years.
In 1964, Bethlehem Steel Corp. converted the vessel into a cargo ship. For 16 years, it sailed for different companies as the Portmar and Port.
The Hawaiian Eugenia Corp. purchased the ship in 1979 and renamed it the SS Poet. A year later, the vessel vanished without a trace.
An Unsolved Mystery
It’s been almost 40 years since the Poet disappeared. Here are some theories about what happened to it:
Crushed by Politics
The Poet was allegedly on a secret government mission on behalf of President Reagan. The crew was to deliver arms to Iran as part of a deal to free 52 U.S. hostages. The operation is said to have failed with all lives onboard lost.
Wrecked by a Storm
While traveling through the Bermuda Triangle, the ship encountered an unexpected storm. The cargo allegedly got wet and expanded, causing the ship to capsize. It is said that vessel and its crew rest at the bottom of the ocean.
Marauded by Mobsters
Scotland Yard reportedly received intelligence that the ship was being targeted by South Jersey mobsters. Gambino family operatives allegedly hijacked the vessel, sailed to Iran, and traded the ship and its cargo for heroin.
Immerse yourself in this mystery at “The Disappearance of the SS Poet.”
Honor the Crew
We’re creating a memory wall to pay tribute to the missing seamen of the SS Poet. You can contribute to this project by filling out this form below. Your tribute will be printed out and added to our memory wall.
If you would like to join our mailing list, please provide your address below.
“Leroy Warren – a man who loved life and lived big. He is missed as is all the crew”
— Steven T.
“To the SS Poet Crew and their surviving relatives. My father was friends with AB Carl Goff since childhood. The loss at sea pushed me into Art History.”
— Lorraine M.
“In Memory of Radio Officer Joe Vyhnak from his 1979 classmates, Institute of Maritime Electronics St. Michaels MD.”
— Grafton B., John C., Kevin C., William D., Norman E., Stan G., Walter K., Jerry L., Steven M., Frank M., Herman W.
“My dear brother Mosel Myers was on this vessel. His parents are decease now, never knowing what happen to their son, who was a father, a brother, a husband. May god bless his soul. Rest in peace brother. Gone but never ever forgotten. I will always remember you.”
— Diane M.
“May the crew of the S.S.Poet Rest In Peace. They will never be forgotten. We will continue to honor them annually at Gloria Dei.”
— Peggy B.
“Here’s to the memory of the missing seamen of the SS Poet. I hope that the sea will yet reveal what happened and provide closure to their loved ones.”
— Amy G.