Ghost Boat

(P1) Mysterious “ghost ships” without any live CREW have been WASHING UP on the western shores of Japan.

(P2) Over the past two months at least 13 wooden boats have washed up, with more than 20 DECAYING bodies on board. Very little is known about them but investigators have found some evidence that hint at their origins.

(P3) What are these ‘ghost ships’?

(P4) They are called that because they have been found empty or with only CORPSES on board off Japan’s western coast. All the bodies were either DECOMPOSING or partially SKELETONIZED by the time they arrived, a clear INDICATION they had been dead for a long time.

(P5) But this is not the first time boats have come ashore in Japan or on the coast of Russia’s far east. Japan’s coast guard told the BBC that 65 such boats washed up last year, but the latest INFLUX appears to be coming at a slightly higher rate than usual.

(P6) Where are they from?

(P7) They are believed to be North Korean fishing boats, many of which will have been out searching for KING CRAB, SQUID, and sandfish at this time of year. MARKINGS on at least one of the boats, in Korean, indicated that it belonged to the North’s military.

(P8) In North Korea the military is heavily involved in the fishing industry, as it is in many others.

(P9) A SCRAP of what is thought to be part of the North Korean flag flying from one of the boats is also a clue. There has been no mention of the missing boats by the North Korean government.

(P10) How did those on board die?

(P11) Not every boat has been found with corpses.

(P12) Japanese officials are investigating the causes of death but say some of the bodies are in such a bad state of decomposition that it may be impossible to identify cause of death.

(P13) It is now winter in the region and EXPOSURE to THE ELEMENTS and STARVATION are possible explanations.

(P14) Are they DEFECTORS?

(P15) Some have speculated that sailors could be trying to FLEE the REGIME.

(P16) But many remain UNCONVINCED.

North Korea Map

(P17) Asian expert John Nilsson-Wright said, “It wouldn’t make sense if you were a defector to go to Japan. South Korea is much closer by boat.”

(P18) So what happened to these boats ON THE OPEN SEA?

(P19) The wooden boats arriving are old and heavy and do not have powerful modern engines or GPS. If they VENTURED too far out or were BLOWN OFF COURSE, they could LOSE THEIR BEARINGS.

(P20) Extreme weather is not a factor. Conditions have been fairly normal.

(P21) Nilsson-Wright says : “It could simply be that they were just unlucky.”

WORDS: 444

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34981195


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. This story would make a good EPISODE of a popular American television program called Unsolved Mysteries. Do you like that type of story?
  3. What do you think is the explanation for the boats washing up and for the deaths on board?
  4. Why hasn’t the North Korean government mentioned the missing boats?
  5. Although the weather conditions have been normal, it can get very cold on the Sea of Japan. What is the coldest weather you have ever experienced?


What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Wash up
  • The elements
  • On the open sea
  • Blown off course
  • Lose one’s bearings

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