Space & Innovation

Mummified Sailor Found on Ghost Vessel

A mummified sailor has been found floating aboard a ghost yacht which could have drifted for years in the Pacific.

A mummified sailor has been found floating aboard a ghost yacht which could have drifted for years in the Pacific Ocean, according to a Philippine police report.

The naturally mummified body of German adventurer Manfred Fritz Bajorat, 59, was found by two fishermen who spotted a battered vessel in the Philippine Sea about 60 miles from Barabo.

"A white yacht floating with a destroyed sail prompted them to enter the boat to verify further," the Barobo Police Station said in a Facebook post.

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As they got into the yacht, the fishermen made a gruesome discovery. Still stitting at a desk, slumped over on his right arm, was the mummified body of a man. A transmitter handset was just inches away, as if he had tried to make a desperate emergency call.

The fishermen decided to tow the 40-foot yacht, called Sayo, to shore, where police officers began their investigation.

Photographs on board the yacht helped the police identify the corpse as that of Manfred Fritz Bajorat, an experienced mariner who had been sailing for the past 20 years.

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Certificates found on the vessel revealed Bajorat and his wife Claudia crossed the equator aboard another ship, the Hyundai Renaissance in 2008.

In that year, however, the couple split. Bajorat continued his round-the-world sail alone; Claudia died from cancer in 2010.

The mummy is estimated to be between one year and seven years old. It's yet unknown how long the dead mariner had been sailing on his yacht: sightings of him have not been reported since 2009.

A yachtsman told the German magazine Bild that he met Bajorat in Mallorca in 2009.

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"He was a very experienced sailor. I don't believe he would have sailed into a storm. I believe the mast broke after Manfred was already dead," he told Bild.

Forensic examiners said natural mummification occurred because dry ocean winds, hot temperatures and salty air helped preserve the body. Post-mortem examination found no evidence of foul play, so it is believed Bajorat had died of natural causes.

The final position in which the body was mummified suggests Bajorat possibly succumbed to a heart attack.

German officials are trying to trace any relatives in the hope they can help reconstruct the circumstances and time of death.

The mummified sailor is shown still seating at the desk.

A young, short man with a slight resemblance to Michael Jackson, a woman with an elaborate hairstyle and an older woman who could slip, unnoticed, into today's society -- all died some 2,000 years ago but now facial reconstructions of the ancient Egyptians have brought them back to life.

The reconstructions were unveiled today at McGill University's Redpath Museum.

"People are amazed by mummies, but never more so, I've found, when they can see the face," said anthropologist Andrew Wade of Western University.

The high tech process, involving CT scanning and multiple scientific disciplines, recreates what the three individuals looked like as they were laid to rest nearly 2,000 years ago.

Here, a mummy is set to go into a CT scanner.

Mummies of a young male, a young female and an older woman were virtually unwrapped using CT scanning. Models of their bone structure were then created.

Barbara Lawson, a curator at the Redpath Museum who also worked on the project, added that all three mummies were scanned at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital as part of Western University's IMPACT Radiological Mummy Database Project.

Forensic artist Victoria Lywood undertook the actual reconstruction work, which was based on the 3-D high-resolution images along with ultrasonic images and anthropological research.

A step in the process involved sketching what the individuals would have looked like.

Some have detected a facial resemblance, at least from the front profile, with the late pop star Michael Jackson. Jackson was, in fact, very interested in Egyptian history, which might have influenced some of his personal style.

The Theban male died between the ages of 20-30. His mummy was purchased in Thebes, his likely place of death.

The young man was "relatively short in stature," according to Wade.

Lywood is one of the world's leading experts on such recreations.

"I reconstruct modern-day skulls, archaeological remains and fragmentary skulls," she told Discovery News. "The oldest I have constructed was from 6,000 years ago found in Israel. While there were people of all sizes throughout the ages, my experience is that skull size was much smaller than modern populations."

This Ptolemaic female was a "late adolescent girl or young woman of average height and elite status," Wade said. "Her age at death is estimated at between 18 and 24 years."

Her mummy was found "in a tomb pit in the solid rock near Hawara el-Makta in Fayum (Lower Egypt) and acquired in Egypt towards the end of the 19th century and donated to the Redpath Museum in 1895," Lawson said.

Clearly ancient Egyptians prized fashionable coifs, given the complexity of the young woman's hairstyle.

Her hair must have been fixed before mummification, perhaps in hopes of sending her off to the next life looking her best.

The hairdo of a young ancient Egyptian female was reconstructed on a modern woman.

The reconstructed young woman is shown here without her wig. Clearly her hair was a big part of her look.

The oldest individual of the three was this woman -- likely a tall, upper middle-class adult between the ages of 30 and 50 years old.

If she were alive today, this woman (at least based on her physical appearance) would probably fit right in with modern society.

As Wade said, "Humans have been physically pretty much the same for the last 2,000 years...That's not to say that evolution has stopped working on us, but the time frame of 2,000 years is just a drop in the bucket for noticeable physical changes and we've reduced the need for physical changes by adapting culturally."

The three ancient Egyptian people died at somewhat different times and never knew each other. But, as reconstructions, the early Egyptians will spend even more time together, because they will star in a new display in the Redpath Museum's World Cultures gallery starting in February.