One of the great maritime mysteries is The Mary Celeste Ghost Ship.
(some debate over the name as Marie Celeste)
Over 125 years ago, the ship was found floating, with no crew, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. She was in perfect condition. The fate of the crew and passengers has never been explained. The ship was launched in 1861, from the shipyard at Spencer’s Island at Bay of Fundy. The original name of the vessel was the Amazon. Following an accidental grounding at Cow Bay in Cape Breton in 1868, she was repaired, and renamed the Mary Celeste. She operated under an American Flag out of New York.
On November 7, 1872, the Ship sailed under the command of Captain Benjamin Briggs bound for Europe with a cargo of wines and liquors. He was accompanied by his wife, young daughter, and a crew of seven.
On December 4, 1872, the vessel was found floating 600 miles off Gibraltar. The official reports stated that everything was in good order. Only the ship’s paper and chronometer were missing. The last entry into the captain’s logs, on November 24, gave no sign of anything unusual.
This is where the story gets a little murky and the mystery deepens.
The condition of the ship, at the time of her discovery at sea, vary according to the reporter. One report suggested that there were bloodied weapons on board and blood on some of the sail. If this is true it suggests a pirate attack. Something that was common in that area around that time. If it was a pirate, why was the money box and the ship’s cargo of wine and liquor not taken? Surely Pirates would not have left these items behind.
Another area of conflict is whether or not the only lifeboat was still strapped to the ship.
Some other theories over the years have included:
- The entire crew may have been swept overboard by a large wave. Assuming one of them must have carried the chronometer and ship’s papers at the time.
- The Mary Celeste came to the aid of a burning cargo ship filled with coal and explosives. The ship got a little too close to the burning ship. The crew abandoned ship into a small lifeboat, which also picked up the crew of the cargo ship. The lifeboat then capsized and all hands were lost. Unfortunately, there isn’t any record of a cargo ship being lost during that period. Some have reported that the lifeboat was still on board the ship.
- The captain of the Dei Gratia, the ship which found, and applied for salvage rights to the Mary Celeste, hatched a plot to takeover the ship. He placed three of his cut throats on the Mary Celeste as crewmen. Once at sea, the crewmen overtook the vessel and killed the captain and crew. The Dei Gratia then “discovered” the “abandoned” vessel and claimed salvage rights to the ship and the cargo.
What is the real story of the Mary Celeste? What was the fate of Captain Briggs and his family, and the crew of the Mary Celeste?
Mary Celeste Ghost Ship Update #1
The final resting place of the Mary Celeste has been found by Clive Cussler. The ship kicked around for many years after its “ghostly” episode. It was scuttled on the Rochelois Reef in Haiti in about 1884.
Mary Celeste Ghost Ship Update #2
A recent communication with the webmaster of the Arthur Conan Doyle site at: http://www.siracd.com reminded us that there has always been confusion over the spelling of the Mary Celeste. Some say that she was called the Marie Celeste. In 1883, Doyle’s first literary success was “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement“. In this book he told the story of a black passenger. The passenger and his fellow conspirators commandeered the ship. Then sailed it to Africa and murdered the passengers and crew. The remarkable thing about this story, to Doyle, was that anyone believed it. Apparently many people thought the detailed description of the action was too good to be made up. Even U.S. consulate Horatio J. Sprague demanded that the publishers, Cornhill Magazine, investigate the origin of the article.
Conan Doyle was pleased that his story was so well done that it could be mistaken as true. He was also delighted that hundreds of readers, who did understand the work was fictional, thought it was written by a man known for his tales of adventure. They suspected that the anonymous author was none other than Robert Louis Stevenson.”
By Anna Derks