Mary Celeste - The Ghost Ship
This happened even though the weather was fine and she had experienced and able crew. Here is the full story:
The Mary Celeste was Originally named "The Amazon", when it was built at the shipyards in Spencer Island in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1861. It was launched in the same year which also happened to be the year when the American Civil War broke out.
The brigantine Mary Celeste was 31 meters long, 7.6 meters wide and displaced 282 tons of water. However since her launch, she had always been influenced under some evil power.
Mary Celeste - The Ghost Ship
During her first decade of operations, she was involved in several misadventures and passed through many changes of ownership. It was as if the ship was under the influence of a bad evil.
Look at the following chronological events:
In October 1872, Mary Celeste was made ready on a birth in New York's East River for a voyage to Genoa, Italy. The captain of the ship was Benjamin Briggs aged 37. Briggs’ 30-year old wife Sarah and 2-year-old child were also in the ship. And there were 7 crew making it a total of 10 on board.
Captain Briggs was a very experienced and able seaman and captained five ships in his career. He himself was an owner of many ships and had spent most of his life on the sea.
Mary Celeste departed New York City on November 7, 1872. She was carrying a cargo of 1701 barrels of raw commercial alcohol valued at some $35,000 and had full insurance.
Strangely after almost a month of her sail, on December 4, 1872 a British Empire vessel named Dei Gratia found the Mary Celeste off the coast of Portugal. She apparently looked abandoned although still under sail. There was not a single soul on board.
Here are some speculations and theories behind the mystery of Mary Celeste:
Some speculated that the Mary Celeste had fallen pray to the North African pirates who were known to be operating in that area. The pirates would have killed all on board and threw the bodies over to the sea.
However, there was no such incidence of piracy reported in the Straits of Gibraltar for the last one decade. This is possibly because the British Navy were stationed there.
Even if there was piracy, it is almost impossible to believe that the pirates would spare all personal and valuable possessions of the crew members.
They did not even touch the cargo. Also there was no sign of violence on the ship.
The Dei Gratia crew as suspects
Another theory was that the crew of the ship Dei Gratia that salvaged the abandoned Mary Celeste, would have murdered all on board and then fabricated the story of Ghost Ship in order to claim the salvage rights.
But this seems very unlikely. There was no sign of any struggle on Mary Celeste. Secondly, Dei Gratia departed one week after Mary Celeste did and could not have caught up with it. Also Morehouse, the captain of Dei Gratia was a good friend of Briggs.
Some thought that the whole incidence was probably to make a fake insurance claim. But that would have required Morehouse of Dei Gratia to connive with Briggs to make it happen. While this was possible, the ship Mary Celeste did not belong to either of them. The owner was James Winchester.
Also, the insurance value was quite modest. So such a planned and staged act for such a modest amount looks quite improbable.
It's true that when the crew of Dei Gratia salvaged the Mary Celeste, they found a lot of water in between the decks and about 3 and half feet water in the hold. Also, two out of the three water pumps were found to be disassembled while only one was working. This led to the theory that Mary Celeste would have been hit by a severe storm and while it was sinking, captain Briggs ordered the crew to evacuate.
But there are fallacies to this theory as well. There was no such storm reported in that area of Atlantic during the time the Mary Celeste was discovered abandoned. Also, the water level was not enough for a captain to order evacuation. The ship was still in sail worthy condition. However, it is possible that since Brigg's own family was on board, he would have been extra cautious. Then why didn't they all return and explain the story to all?
It was found that 9 out of the 1701 barrels of alcohol were empty. So there was a speculation that the crew members would have consumed all the alcohol, got drunk and murdered the captain and his family due to Brigg's tyranny over the years.
Sounds good, but seems unlikely. Briggs was known as an able and well behaved captain. Also, he was never heard consuming alcohol himself and therefore likely not to have allowed crew members to consume alcohol on board.
A modern Captain David Williams offered an explanation stating that there was earthquake under the sea. As a result the nine barrels would have got dislodged and the alcohol would have leaked. So that explains the empty barrels. Heavy rumbling of the sea made the crew members panic and they jumped into a small sailing dinghy boat. Later they tried to catch up with Mary Celeste but could not, and died on the sea.
Well, this sounds interesting too. But the fact is, the crew of Dei Gratia did not report any sign of rumbling or aftershock. Also, there was no quake reported at the nearby Portuguese islands or Azores during that time.
Out of all the theories, a possible explosion causing Mary Celeste's abandonment seems to be the one most likely, although it too has its own caveat. This theory was offered by James Winchester, the owner of Mary Celeste himself.
The nine barrels of alcohol which were found empty, were made of red oak and not white oak as the others. Red oaks are generally more porous. There may have been slow alcohol leakage thorough those. That would have create alcohol vapor in the hold. The barrels, that were tied with steel bands would have rubbed against each other. The friction in the steel bands then created a spark which would have then caused an explosion.
Captain Briggs seeing a violent gush of fumes and fire, would have panicked and ordered the crew to immediately get on to the life boats. In hurry, the crew could not possibly tie their boat to the ship with a strong rope. And subsequently, a strong wind would have swayed them off and all would have drowned, or died out of hunger or exposure to weather.
However, the caveat to this theory is that when Mary Celeste was salvaged, no one could get smell of the alcohol fumes outside the hold, nor could they see any burn marks. Who knows whether the nine barrels were actually loaded empty at New York itself!
There is no explanation that substantiates the Mary Celeste abandonment with full evidence and facts. So this remains as one of the greatest mysteries of the ocean.
By the way, this incidence of Mary Celeste is sometimes confused with another ship that had the same name and actually sank off the coast of Bermuda in September 1864. To know about that interesting story, visit Bermuda's Mary Celeste.
1) Check out Bermuda Triangle Incidents to know about many other amazing mysteries of Bermuda Triangle.
2) Check out Bermuda Triangle Theories that try to explain the major disappearances.
3) Check out Bermuda Triangle Mystery to know about the mystery of Bermuda Triangle, how it originated, what's happening in the area, its history and more.
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