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SS Cotopaxi

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United States
Name: Cotopaxi
Namesake: Cotopaxi
Owner: Clinchfield Navigation Company
Builder: Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse, Michigan
Yard number: 209
Launched: 1918
Out of service: On or after 1 December 1925
Identification:IMO number217270
Fate: Reported missing, 1 December 1925
General characteristics
Tonnage: 2,351 GRT
Length: 253 ft (77 m)
Beam: 44 ft (13 m)
Draft: 25 ft (7.6 m)
Installed power: Steam boiler
Speed: 9.5 knots (17.6 km/h; 10.9 mph)
Crew: 32

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


Cotopaxi is 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]

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; 10.9 mph).[3]

Final voyage

On 29 November 1925, 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, Cotopaxi radioed a distress call,[4] reporting that the ship was listing and taking on water[2] during a tropical storm.[6][7] 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.[8]

In fiction

In the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Cotopaxi is discovered[9], located in the Gobi Desert, presumably set there by extraterrestrial forces.[8] In a documentary on the making of the film, it is said that the model they used looked nothing like the actual vessel.[citation needed]


  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 (44157). London. 31 December 1925. 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. ^ Lawrence Journal-World December 1, 1925 .p.1
  7. ^ The Spokesman-Review December 8, 1925 .p.2 "Think Ship Typhoon Wreck
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Close Encounters: 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition DVD (1977)". BBC. Retrieved 10 March 2011.

Further reading