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Unsolved mystery of MV Joyita

Matilda Simmons
Sunday, October 15, 2017

ON this day in 1969, we reported on the demise of the infamous MV Joyita vessel which was discovered about 90 miles south of Fiji in November 1952.

The mystery surrounding the ship captured the minds of many after it was found without its passengers and crew, 36 days after she was reported missing.

The ship was on a trip from Apia in Western Samoa to the Tokelau Islands.

It reportedly had nine passengers and 16 crew members of which whose fate was never known.

Since then what's left of the ill-fated ship lay buried in the sand on the beach at Nasova, Levuka.

According to The Fiji Times article, the ship had been propped up on the beach since November, 1959, soon after she hit a reef at Vatuvula in the Koro Sea.

It was once built as a pleasure craft for a wealthy American film magnate in 1931 in Los Angeles.

"The MV Joyita was auctioned in Suva in 1956 and the late Mr David Simpson Sr bought her, and after refitting her used her for trading," the article mentioned.

"All went well for a short time until January 8, 1957 when she hit notorious Horseshoe Reef in the Koro Sea. She was pulled off and towed to Levuka where the badly damaged hulk was repaired.

"People were almost convinced that the MV Joyita was a ship haunted by evil spirits and bad luck.

"Less than a fortnight after she was recommissioned, she went aground on Vatuvula Reef. The MV Joyita was later refloated under her own power and steamed for Levuka where an examination of her hull showed no serious damage.

"She set sail for Suva but when she got into open sea she began to leak badly and her master had to turn her back to Levuka.

"The MV Joyita was taken to Nasova and propped up on the beach next to the spot where the Deed of Cession was signed.

"It was here that she was destined to spend the rest of her days because at the time her owners felt that she had cost them too much money for no returns.

"The English author, Lord Maugham, later arrived in Fiji to collect material for his book about the MV Joyita's fateful voyage, and purchased what was left of the ship."

Levuka businessman Trevor Casling-Cottle then acquired the MV Joyita from Lord Maugham in 1967 and planned to turn her into a maritime museum.

Today bits and pieces of the ship's hull are displayed at the Levuka Museum.

People from all walks of life can view part of a ship that capured the curiosity of many Pacific Islanders and the mystery surrounding the fate of its passengers and crew remain unsolved to this day.

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