SS Cotopaxi

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Name: Cotopaxi
Owner: Clinchfield Navigation Company
Port of registry: United States United States
Builder: Great Lakes Engineering Works
Launched: 1918
Out of service: On or after 1 December 1925
Fate: Reported missing 1 December 1925
General characteristics
Tonnage: 2,351 GRT
Length: 253 ft (77 m)
Beam: 44 ft (13 m)
Installed power: Steam engine
Speed: 9.5 knots (17.6 km/h)
Crew: 32

The SS Cotopaxi was a tramp steamer named after the Cotopaxi stratovolcano. She vanished in December 1925, while en route from Charleston, South Carolina, USA, to Havana, Cuba, with all hands.


The Cotopaxi was a cargo ship of 2,351 GRT. She was built by the Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse, Michigan,[1] in 1918 for the Clinchfield Navigation Company.[2][3]

The Cotopaxi was 253 feet (77 m) long between perpendiculars, with a beam of 44 feet (13 m). Her steam engine could propel her at 9.5 knots (17.6 km/h).[3]

Final voyage[edit]

On 29 November 1925, the Cotopaxi departed Charleston, South Carolina, for Havana, Cuba,[4] under Captain W. J. Meyer.[5] She was carrying a cargo of coal and a crew of 32.[5] On 1 December, the Cotopaxi radioed a distress call,[4] reporting that the ship was listing and taking on water.[2] The ship was officially listed as overdue on 31 December.[4]

Despite the last radio transmission indicating that the ship was about to sink, she has since been connected to the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.[6]

In fiction[edit]

In the 1980 Directors Cut of the November 16, 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Cotopaxi is discovered,[7] located in the Gobi Desert, presumably set there by extraterrestrial forces.[6] In a documentary on the making of the film, it is stated that the model they used looked nothing like the actual vessel.

Internet hoax[edit]

In 2015 a viral rumor that spread across the social media websites Twitter and Facebook asserted that the S.S. Cotopaxi had been found by the Cuban Coast Guard in the Bermuda Triangle 90 years after going missing. However, this was based on a report by a website known for printing satirical or fabricated articles.[8]


  1. ^ The Great Lakes Engineering Works. The Shipyard and its Vessels. Detroit: Marine Historical Society of Detroit. p. 311. 
  2. ^ a b "Ships and the Sea". Evening Post (27 March 1926). p. 27. 
  3. ^ a b "Cotopaxi". Ellis Island. Retrieved 10 March 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c "Mails and Shipping" The Times (London). Thursday, 31 December 1925. (44157), col D, p. 18.
  5. ^ a b "Cotopaxi Still Lost; Lighthouse Men Watch; No Word Since Tuesday". The Sunday News (6 December 1925). p. 1. 
  6. ^ a b Ray Morton (1 November 2007). Close encounters of the third kind: the making of Steven Spielberg's classic film. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 311. ISBN 978-1-55783-710-3. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "Close Encounters: 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition DVD (1977)". BBC. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  8. ^ "SS Cotopaxi resurfaces after 90 years in Bermuda Triangle?". Retrieved 8 September 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "Lloyd's Posts Cotopaxi as 'Missing'". The New York Times, January 7, 1926.
  • "Efforts to Locate Missing Ship Fail". The Washington Post, December 6, 1925.
  • "Lighthouse Keepers Seek Missing Ship". The Washington Post, December 7, 1925.
  • "53 on Missing Craft Are Reported Saved". The Washington Post, December 13, 1925.