From Tarantulas to Treasures: The Strangest Things Found in Cargo Boxes

Green snake

The expansion of our trading systems throughout history has allowed us to receive information and produce from countries all over the world, expanding both our diets and our knowledge of the world around us. Packages often travel tens of thousands of miles to reach their destination, and shipping containers and cargo boxes can contain anything from food and spices to clothing to electronics.

With contents and origins from all around the globe, it’s hardly surprising that the occasional cargo box is packed with a little more than expected. From tarantulas to treasures, here are the strangest things ever discovered in cargo boxes:

Vipers, Tarantulas, and Pythons

Biosecurity officers in Melbourne got a nasty surprise when they x-rayed a box and found it teeming with a nightmarish mass of reptiles, arachnids, and scorpions. Upon further investigation, the parcel (marked “2 pair shoes”) was found to contain dozens of critters, including six vipers, two hognose snakes, three royal pythons, four Asian forest scorpions, two Brazilian tarantulas, two Colombian giant tarantulas and five Mexican red-knee tarantulas.

The monstrous package originated in Northern Europe and was believed to be a failed attempt to bypass Australia’s strict laws against importing biological organisms into the country. It is possible they were intended for sale as exotic pets, but unfortunately, most of the animals died in transit or were euthanized by veterinary officers to prevent their potential spread of invasive diseases.

A Collection of Bond-esque Weapons

A shipping container that arrived in Sydney in December 2013 was found to contain tear gas lipstick, an accessory you would most expect to find in the plot of a sci-fi spy movie.

So, was this container the personal property of a Bond-esque, international super-villain? Not quite. The lipstick was part of a huge shipment of illegal weapons into Sydney, which police believe were intended for sale in Sydney’s markets.

Aside from the tear gas lipstick, the other gadgets seized were found to be equally nefarious and included electronic stun guns disguised as iPhones and replica pistols.


A Deadly Stowaway 

Suffolk, England usually doesn’t have a lot in the way of dangerous wildlife; that is, until a black widow spider showed up at the Port of Felixstowe. Staff at the company found the deadly arachnid in a metal cargo box, having just completed (and survived) an epic journey from Singapore. Thanks to the quick action of the staff, the spider was quickly contained, and the box fumigated to destroy any eggs — something the residents of Suffolk will no doubt be thankful for.

A $2 Million-Dollar Jet Engine

In 1994, John Wilson of Bridgetown, N.S, picked up a cargo container for $400 after seeing an advertisement in the Annapolis Valley buy-and-sell flyer. One of eight supposedly empty shipping containers sold that day, and the box was the perfect size and shape to serve as a bridge on John’s property, which was precisely why he bought it.

For the next ten years, the container sat benignly on Wilson’s property, serving its purpose well and never occasioning a second thought. Until, one day, when John decided to open it, and he was amazed at what he found inside.

The original crates, it transpired, had come from the HMCS Athabaskan, whose engines were removed and replaced in 1994. Due to some administrative error, John found that he was in possession of one of the original engines, complete with the service log book required to sell it. Although the engine was worth $2 million dollars at one point, its value has depreciated significantly, though it could still potentially fetch as much as $30,000 today.

Sports car Lotus Esprit S1

A Bond Car

When a Long Island contractor bought an old shipping container for $100 at auction back in 1989, he had no idea he had essentially won the lottery. Upon opening the container, he and his brother found a white sports car in poor condition, with a dented roof and no wheels.

Later authentication from the Ian Fleming Foundation revealed that the car was none other than the amphibious Lotus Esprit that appeared in the iconic Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me. The value of the unassuming vehicle was far beyond anything the brothers could have imagined, and they sold the car at auction in 2013 for almost $1 million.

Final Thoughts

With shipments conveying all types and quantities of goods around the globe every day, there is no telling what else may have found its way in alongside the regular cargo. Whether accidentally or deliberately placed inside, shipping containers can sometimes conceal unimaginable surprises. From smuggled items to unintentional stowaways and lost treasures, the content of cargo boxes truly can range from the wonderful to the terrifying.



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