'Bizarre' Lake Poyang In China & Other Cursed Lake Tales

EnolaGaia

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It seems that publicizing the mysteries of Lake Poyang began - or at least really began to flourish - after this 2010 article appeared in the NY-based Chinese newspaper Epoch Times. The article link is dead, and here's the text salvaged from the Wayback Machine ...

China’s Poyang Lake: ‘Bermuda Triangle of the East’
By Epoch Time Staff |
October 30, 2010 AT 3:28 AM

... On Oct. 20, several major media in China reported on the dangerous waters of Poyang Lake, the largest freshwater lake in China. Poyang Lake is known as the “Bermuda Triangle of the East.”


During the 30 years from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, more than 200 boats sank in these waters, resulting in 1,600 people missing and 30 survivors who became mentally ill.

This “Bermuda Triangle” is located in the northern part of Poyang Lake in Duchang County, Jiangxi Province. On the lake’s northern shore is a temple called Laoye Temple. Hence the locals call the waters near the temple the Laoye Temple waters.

Among the boats missing in this area was one as large as 2,000 tons. It is documented that on Aug. 3, 1985, 13 boats had accidents in the Laoye Temple waters. The mystery is that those boats could not be recovered no matter what attempts were made to do so.

Storms Can Come at Any Time
According to multiple media reports, many local fishermen pray with burning incense or hold ceremonies before they travel in these waters.

Fifty-one-year-old Zhang Xiaojin has been fishing in the Laoye Temple waters for 20 years. “The storms could hit any time,” said Zhang. He and the other fishermen know to carefully observe any small changes on the lake no matter how far they travel.

“I remember one day in the winter of 2001, we were on the lake and everything was fine, but the weather suddenly changed. The waves became so fierce that all boats tried to pull in to shore,” Wang Fangren, a fisherman with 50 years of navigating experience, told media. “One end of a sand-shipping boat suddenly sank and the entire boat went down.”

According to Wang, there are usually signs before a big storm hits. However, the storms on Laoye Temple waters hit in the blink of an eye. “The storm lasted for less than 20 minutes and everything went back to normal like it never happened.”

On April 16, 1945, a Japanese boat sank in the Laoye Temple waters. None of the 20 people on board survived. Afterward, the Japanese sent an underwater salvage team. One individual came back up and the rest disappeared. The survivor was terrified after he took off his diving suit, and he lost his mind soon after.

Later, a salvage mission was conducted for several months, but nothing was found, and several American divers disappeared.

According to Han Lixian, a resident of Duchang County, in 1977, the people in the county built three dams, one of which was near the Laoye Temple waters. One night, the dam, which was 2,000 feet long, 165 feet wide, and 16 feet above water, sank without making a noise.

The ‘Evil Wind’
A while ago, a reporter from Jiangxi Daily went to the waters near Laoye Temple with several scientists. When he stood in Laoye Temple, he felt the wind blow from south to north. But when he looked at the water, the spray showed there was wind blowing from north to south. It seemed that the wind was blowing in two opposite directions.

Furthermore, when the wind blew, the spray on the lake did not travel in a straight line, but in an upturned “V” shape. The strange winds and spray made it hard for the fishermen to tell direction.

Boats Overturned Without Waves or Wind
However, people believe that strange winds are not what make these waters dangerous. Jin, the abbot of Laoye Temple, said that this year on March 5, which was a calm sunny day, a 1,000-ton boat overturned in the waters. No one knows why.

In the eyes of the locals, a legend can explain what happened. When Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding father of the Yuan Dynasty, waged war against his rival Chen Youliang near Poyang Lake, Zhu was losing the battle and retreated to the lake shore. There was not a boat on the lake, but a giant turtle appeared and helped Zhu across the lake.

After Zhu became the emperor, he made the turtle a general and built Laoye Temple near the lake in memory of the turtle. The locals believe that the turtle’s spirit is stirring up trouble for the fishermen.

A local expert told the media that they have found out what caused the waters to be dangerous. “An infrared picture shows that there is an enormous sandbank below the Laoye Temple waters. It is about 6,600 feet long and goes east–west. The sandbank blocks the water flow and creates a whirlpool under the lake. It is very possible that the whirlpool sinks the boats,” said the report.

However, this theory still cannot explain why the remains of sunken ships were never found.
 
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EnolaGaia

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There's nothing about the allusion to a Japanese transport named Kobe Maru sinking in the lake in April 1945 that adds up.

For one thing, most accounts claim this vessel either carried a crew of 200 or was transporting 200 Japanese military personnel. The Epoch Times article states it had a crew of only 20.

The mystery-touting accounts claim this Japanese transport displaced circa 2000 tons.

There was a registered Japanese transport named Kobe Maru (built in the UK, 1888) displacing circa 2800-some tons, but it ended up wrecked on the southeast coast of Sakhalin in 1923.

See: http://www.clydeships.co.uk/view.php?ref=12272

The only other transport named Kobe Maru displaced over 7900 tons, and it was sunk in November 1942 following a collision with another Japanese transport.

See:
http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/lines/nyk.shtml
http://warsailors.com/forum/read.php?1,50416,50422
 

James_H

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EnolaGaia

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Tol from Leeds

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This ties into a broader point ... Poyang Lake's level has historically fluctuated quite a bit between the wet and dry seasons. This, combined with the sandy lakebed conditions, would make it a tricky environment for navigating vessels of any substantial size.
Yeah, just dug this article out online - https://www.vagabondjourney.com/bermuda-triangle-east-mystery-continues/ - the chap reporting states that the water level whilst he's there is 1/20th of its wet season level and you can clearly see a long sandbar out in the lake in the distance. This sandbar gives rise to extraordinary whirlpools and eddys which are notoriously hazardous for shipping.
Even allowing for exaggeration of tales etc, the fact that so much shipping tonnage has sunk there over the years (and its not particularly that deep as lakes go) and no trace has been found is head scratching. The chinese have also lost a WHOLE dam (50ft high, 2000ft long), again no trace, to the lake amongst other things.
I can't find much on the american salvage diver, Boer or Bolton, whose underwater encounter seems fantastic embellished by the unknown reason why it took him so many years before he could recount it.
The vagabond journey website shows there is an abandoned coal mine next to the lake which I guess implies underground workings though whether they extend under the lake is not known and wouldn't answer any of the older historical strangeness.
 

EnolaGaia

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I may have an explanation for the 2000-ton Japanese military vessel part of the story ... It involves a faulty re-telling of an actual incident on Lake Poyang - a sinking of a Japanese vessel of the cited size and its subsequent disappearance from the lake.

The vessel involved was the Tachibana Maru - a 1772-ton passenger ship built in 1935 in Kobe. (Its point of origin might be the source of the later-attributed name for the vessel lost in April 1945.)

It was transferred into military service as a hospital ship in 1938, during the Japanese invasion of China.

On July 27, 1938, the Tachibana Maru was attacked by Chinese aircraft and sank in Lake Poyang.

(NOTE: This is the only record of a Japanese military-related vessel sinking in Lake Poyang that I've been able to find.)

The sunken Tachibana Maru did in fact 'disappear' from the lake, because it was salvaged (September 1938) and put back into service as a passenger ship (early 1939).

This ship was obtained by the Japanese military and converted into a registered hospital ship during WW2. Although inadvertently (?) attacked during wartime operations, it survived the war.

See: http://www.combinedfleet.com/Tachibana_t.htm
 

EnolaGaia

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Just for the record ...

I've scanned compiled records for Japanese military vessels lost during April 1945. I found no sinkings recorded for the Yangtze / lake region, nor any record of a vessel named anything close to Kobe Maru, on 16 April 1945 (or 1 week earlier or later than that cited date). This review includes Japanese gunboats dedicated to river / lake service.
 
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