The strange case of the "KC-13" goes back to November
1957, when the Japanese freighter Meitetsu Maru steamed slowly through the darkness in
calm seas, 30 miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island. For hours the Maru
proceeded without sign of another ship when, suddenly, a wavering tower of light attracted
her lookout's attention. Immediately ordering increased speed, Capt. Ohuchi headed
for the scene, some four miles off, and, as his ship neared, he could see the blazing
remains of a fishing boat. But it was not the fiery wreckage which held his eyes
captive. It was the glowing, circular white light that hovered over the wreck at
which they stared, hypnotized. As their freighter inched closer, the eerie light
retreated swiftly in a great, upward arc, vanishing into the dark skies.
After unsuccessfully searching
for survivors, the Japanese radioed the alarm. Because the dying vessel was ablaze
from bow to stern, Capt. Ohuchi made no attempt to have his men board and continued on to
Vancouver as the United States Coast Guard and aircraft of the RCAF began an intensive
search of the area. Aided by unseasonably fine weather, both forces covered more
than 6,000 square miles of ocean.
However, although numerous
fishing vessels were in the area, none had picked up any survivors. Only one, in
fact, had reported an incident which could have had any connection with the burned vessel:
That report mentioned the strange white light which the Japanese merchantmen had seen,
arching upward from the sea.
All that the vast, two-day
search uncovered of the vessel described as . . .of about 50 tons gross and about 70 feet
long, was a medium-sized gasoline tank to which were attached some pieces of charred wood.
In the way of further
identification, all Capt. Ohuchi had been able to offer authorities were the figures
"KC-13-ac" on the side of the burning hull.
Fifteen years after, the
mystery of KC-13 remains just that. For no Canadian or American fishing vessels had
been reported as missing or overdue at the time of the loss, and the figures given by
Capt. Ohuchi did not correspond with numbers of fishboats of either nation. The only
tangible clue, the gas tank, was forwarded to the RCMP in Vancouver and eventually
identified as having come from the Nanaimo fishing craft Jo-Joe which went missing off
Vancouver Island's west coast on October 30, 1957.
At first thought to be a
company listing, KC-13-ac has never been identified. RCMP officials, when contacted
in 1963, said they had no record of the white light. Up to that date, the Jo-Joe's
owner had not turned up and it had been assumed that he was lost with his boat.
There was no mention of others having been aboard.
Today, in 1972, the original
questions are still to be answered: What was the cause of the fire that destroyed a
70-foot craft in minutes? And, even more intriguing, what was the mysterious white
light that hovered over the scene, only to zoom away at the Meitetsu Maru's chance