Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ghost Ship: Mary Celeste

I love stories about ghost ships; for years I have heard and read many accounts of the most famous ones, plus a few not so well known. 

The Mary Celeste by far the most famous ghost ship. She was a brigantine merchant ship that was discovered unmanned and adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in December of 1872. This discovery is considered one of the greatest maritime mysteries.

When she was discovered, there was no crew or passengers aboard and no sign of why she would have been abandoned. The weather had been exceptional, and the ship was in seaworthy condition, and the captain and crew aboard were considered experienced. 

The ship had been at sea for little over a month, and at the time of her discovery, the supplies she carried could have sustained the crew and passengers for at least another six months.

When the ship set sail from New York heading for Genoa, Italy there were ten people aboard. This included Captain Benjamin Briggs, his wife Sarah, and their baby daughter Sophia, a first mate, and six crewmen. 

Their cargo consisted of 1,701 barrels of commercial alcohol used to fortify Italian wines. When the Mary Celeste was discovered this cargo, except for nine empty barrels, and all the personal items of the captain, his family and crew were untouched, including valuables. The captain’s logbook was still aboard. 

The Dei Gratia was the ship that discovered the Mary Celeste yawing slightly, with sails torn somewhat, heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar. 

When the Dei Gratia crew boarded her, they found her desks wet and water in the hold but the ship was not sinking and was still seaworthy. The one lifeboat onboard, a yawl, was missing. It appeared to them the Mary Celeste had been abandoned in a hurry.

But there was no sign of struggle or violence. The wheel had not been tied down. There was a meal laid out that was left untouched. There were no reported storms in the area—the crew of the Dei Gratia who had followed the same course stated the seas were unusually calm.

An Admiralty inquiry was held to determine what had happened. They stated that there was no evidence of piracy, foul play, or mutiny, struggle or violence. 

A description of Briggs and his crewmembers were sent out, but no trace of them was ever found. To this day the name Mary Celeste is synonymous with ghost ships found abandoned without any apparent reason.

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