Disappearance of Marine Sulphur Queen
In Bermuda Triangle

SS Marine Sulphur Queen was originally a T2 tanker built in 1944. There were many such tankers built by the US during World War II to carry oil. 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. 
Sulphur Queen 
Photo: cc by sa 
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 kept at 275°F 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. 
So What happened to Marine Sulphur Queen? 

Investigation of Marine Sulphur Queen mystery

US Coast Guard launched an investigation into the mystery of Suplhur Queen. It was true that at the time of her disappearance, the sea was rough and the waves were some 16-foot high. But can that really make such a huge ship disintegrate altogether? Here are some of the important investigation findings of US Coast Guards: 
Debris of Marine Suplur Queen 
Marine Suplur Queen Debris 
Photo: Waypoint U.S. Coast Guard Digital Archive 
  • The ship was often seen with fire around the Sulphur tanks. This was caused due to leakage and heat around the tanks. This was so common that often the crew did not even bother about it. In one occasion, the ship even came to a New Jersey port with such burning fire, offloaded sulphur and sailed out while there was still fire around the tanks. 
  • Due to heavy corrosion, the keel (a structure) in the middle portion of the ship was becoming very week. It was quite possible that the keel could split up. The ship was actually due for its routine maintenance in January before its sail. 
    But the owners still insisted on the ship sailing as it was behind its planned schedule of cargo delivery. After all nobody likes commercial losses. In fact, before the ship started its last sail, a crewman was heard telling his wife ... the ship was a "floating garbage can". 
    Know about the other Intriguing Triangle Incidents


    Well, as extensive search resulted into nothing but only to find some debris and such, the Coast Guards and the Navy Board reached the conclusion that the ship was actually lost in the sea. They also concluded that it was lost on February 4, 1963 near the Straits of Florida. 
    While they could not assign any definite cause to the loss or highlight which could have been the most likely one, they recorded that the following could have been the possibilities: 
  • An explosion could have taken place in the cargo tanks due to leakage. 
  • The vessel's hull may have split up into two. 
  • The ship may have been capsized in rough sea. 
  • A steam explosion may have happened and the crew would have got poisoned. 
    Raj BhattacharyaBy Raj Bhattacharya 
    Raj, a seasoned travel writer and Bermuda destination expert, has extensive global travel experience. This website reflects his profound insights, garnered over nearly two decades of dedicated findings and research on the island. Raj has assisted countless Bermuda-bound visitors by providing direct, personalized responses to their queries and imparting his wealth of knowledge through this platform. This site serves as an indispensable guide for those seeking informed and reliable insights into Bermuda's treasures. 
    Know more about Raj Bhattacharya 

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    3) Check out Bermuda Triangle Mystery to know about the mystery of Bermuda Triangle, how it originated, what's happening in the area, its history and more. 

    Your Reviews

    Tex Adams RM2 USS SALINAN ATF 161 (January 2021) 
    I was on board the SeaGoing Tug, the USS SALINAN at the time.  We were going up the Mississippi River, the Sulfur Queen was headed down river. We were going to New Orleans & they were headed for the Gulf of Mexico. She disappeared two days later. 39 men went down with her. WOW ! GOD Bless them and all their families. 
    Ken Vizena (May 2021) 
    Just as an FYI, the cause of the loss will never be known, however structural analysis of other converted ships to hold molten sulfur were shown to not handle stress when loaded. There were several studies on ships that were mothballed and ones still in service. After the loss the ships that were converted fell under another level of review and most were not declared seaworthy. 
    The welded seam around the mid-ship that was part of the conversion was shown to not have enough support under poor conditions, even with no load. 
    There were no punitive damages since the ship was never found, so our family just settled. The prevailing theory from the investigation is that when the ship was lost, the conditions were very poor, even worse for a poorly converted ship full of molten sulfur. 
    In test modeling the ship hitting a wave of ten to fifteen feet would have been enough to snap the welds from the terrible conversion. Also, from the report molten sulfur when in contact with water will form sulfuric acid that will further weaken the structural integrity of the ship. 
    The hypothesis is the ship hit a very large wave, and was snapped in half, it went down immediately. When testing was done with the other converted ships there were similar problems identified and continues to be the prevailing theory. 
    Gary "Dutch" Wright (June 2016) 
    On Feb 4 1963 I was stationed at US Coast Guard Group, Sabine Pass, Tx. as a Radiomam in operations. As the Queen departed the mouth of the Sabine River from Beaumont, Tx. I received a routine departure message on the voice net from the Queen and relayed the message to USCG HQ in New Orleans as required. 
    After her disappearance, I recall thinking how odd it was because her route was "coastal"' meaning not intending to travel into open seas. At that time there were US Coast Guard Radio Stations and other USCG Station that monitored the international calling and distress frequencies, 500KC morse code and voice 2182KC, all along the East Coast including Galveston, Tx, New Orleans, La., Pensacola, Fl., Key West, Fl., Miami, Fl. and Norfolk, Va. to name a few. This does not include a wide variety of merchant and military shipping that also monitor morse code and voice distress frequencies 24/7.  
    I find it highly improbable the SS Marine Sulpher Queen broadcasted any form of SOS or Mayday distress call before it disappeared less it would have been intercepted immediately by any number of US Coast Guard or Maritime vessels along its intended route.  I recall no such broadcast and that itself is reason for the delay in initiating a search.  
    K Schneeberger (January 2016) 
    I suspect, that the SS Marine Sulphur Queen may have encountered a Russian Submarine off of Cuba, and was torpedoed.  Initial news reports stated that the SS Marine Sulphur Queen was probably sunk, or taken, and may be located in Cuba.  In 1962/1963 unthinkable things happened (Missile Crisis, Kennedy Assassination) in world politics.  I believe that the SS Marine Sulphur Queen was a casualty of these events, and the Cold War. Hopefully someone will own up to it, eventually.  
    Marie Pizarro-Ferrante (February 2015) 
    Hi, I have been searching for information regarding my father's death all of my life. Interestingly enough your site has answered and raised more questions on the exact site and time of the disappearance. We were notified Feb 14,1963. Do you think it is possible that the vessel was boarded and our merchant marines were taken captive? This was during the Cuban missile crisis and not far from the islands. What is your take on this? I would be grateful for any truth you can give me; I have the official court documents. 
    Raj (bermuda-attractions.com) February 2015 
    Hi, in my view while possibility of crew members taken captive can not be absolutely ruled out, but it's quite unlikely. The Cuban Missile Crisis had ended in November 1962 when Soviet Union and United States reached a formal agreement on the missile issue, and no further news of conflict was heard of. Sulphur Queen was reportedly lost on Feb 4, 1963 near Florida Straights which is about 90 miles away from Cuba. While proximity to Cuba can raise such a question, but the timings and inexplicable motive behind captivating the mariners would make me think otherwise. Let me know if you are in any position to share any documents that you have that can help me to look into the matter further. Thanks. 
    Denis T. Cassidy Sr (January 2015) 
    My grandson was asking me about my service in the Coast Guard and I related to him how, as a radio operator on the USCGC Rockaway I had copied an SOS from the Queen and I had rebroadcast it on 500 KC. Our ship was in the north Atlantic on an ocean station patrol and too far away to be of immediate service. My grandson asked if I thought he could find out more about the Queen if he googled her and I said yes. I did the same and saw your article about the Queen and that no one had heard from her after RCA radio received the routine message from her. I don't know which day it was when I copied the SOS and rebroadcast it but it should be in the radio log that every radio operator completed before going off watch, if it still exists. 
    Russel Burgess, a crew member of a ship that searched for the SS Marine Sulphur Queen, wrote to me about what he remembers of the search operation. Check out Search of Sulphur Queen and find out what he wrote.