The MV Joyita was a luxury yacht, built in 1931, in Los Angeles for Movie Director Roland West. During the Second World War she was outfitted as a Patrol Boat and worked around the coast of Hawaii until the end of the War.
On October the 3rd, 1955, the Joyita set sail from Samoa bound for the Tokelau Islands 270 nautical miles away. Her departure had been delayed due to a clutch malfunction on the port main engine, the clutch was not repaired and the Yacht sailed on one engine. There were 25 souls on board, including a Government Official, 2 children and a surgeon on his way to perform an amputation. Though the journey should have taken no more than 2 days, by the 3rd day Joyita had not arrived in port. No distress call had been received even though the vessels course would have kept her well within radio range of coast guard and relay stations. A 100,000 sq mi search was conducted by aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force but there was no sign of the Yacht, her crew or passengers.
It was not until November 10th, 5 weeks later, that the vessel was found. The Tuvalu sighted the Joyita 600 miles from her planned route. The vessel was listing heavily to port with her deck edge partially submerged. Four tonnes of cargo were missing and none of the crew members were on board. The ship's VHF radio was tuned to the International Distress Frequency. The vessel was found to still be running on one Engine, with an auxiliary pump rigged but not running. All the clocks on board had stopped at 10:25 and switches for cabin and navigation lights were on. A doctor’s bag was found on the floor with 4 blood stained bandages. The logbook, sextant and chronometer were missing, along with 3 life rafts.
A subsequent inquiry found that the vessel's hull was sound and that the fate of the crew was ‘inexplicable on the evidence submitted at the inquiry. The missing life rafts were especially intriguing as the vessel was cork lined, making her unsinkable, a fact the Master and the crew would have been fully aware of. No mention of the use of the medical equipment was in the investigation. The missing cargo also remained a mystery.
Theories ranged from the outright bizarre: Remaining Japanese forces from World War II were to blame for the disappearances, operating from an isolated island base to the more believable: insurance fraud, piracy, mutiny.
The Joyita was repaired, but ran aground on several more occasions. Being dubbed a cursed ship, she was eventually sold for scrap in the 1960s.