|One of the great maritime mysteries is that of the Mary Celeste.
125 years ago, the ship was found floating, crewless, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,
in apparent pristine condition. The fate of the crew and passengers has never been
The Mary Celeste was launched in 1861, from the shipyard at Spencer's Island
near the head of the Bay of Fundy, under the name 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 Mary Celeste sailed under the command of Captain
Benjamin Briggs bound for Europe with a cargo of wines and liquors. He was accompanied by
his wife, his young daughter and a crew of seven.
On December 4, 1872, the Mary Celeste was found floating 600 miles off
Gibraltar. The official reports stated that everything to be in good order, except that
the ship's paper and its chronometer were missing. The last entry into the captain's
logs, on November 24, gave no indication of anything untoward happening or about to
This is where the story gets a little murky and the mystery deepens.
The condition of the Mary Celeste, 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 period. But if it was a pirating, why was the
money box and the ship's cargo of wine and liquor not taken? Pirates
were known to take things from ships to better their
Another area of conflicting observation is whether or not the only
lifeboat was still
strapped to the ship.
Some other theories put forward over the years concerning the Mary Celeste
- the entire crew may have been swept overboard (assuming that one of them must have been
carrying the chronometer and ship's papers at the time) by a large wave while watching
their delirious (or drunken), fully-dressed, captain swimming around the vessel in
mid-ocean with his daughter on his back (You can be sure that Mrs. Captain had something
to say about that!).
- the Mary Celeste came to the aid of a burning cargo ship filled with coal and
explosives. The Mary Celeste got a little too close to the burning ship and 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 and some have reported that the single
lifeboat was still onboard the Mary Celeste.
- 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 by placing 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?
The final resting place of the Mary Celeste has
been found by one of Bruce's heros, 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.
A recent communication with the webmaster of the Arthur Conan Doyle
site at: http://www.siracd.com
reminded us that there has always been a 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, 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 persons thought that the detailed description of
the action was too got be just made up. Even U.S. consul Horatio J. Sprague
demanded that the publishers, Cornhill Magazine, investigate the origin of the
From www.sircad.com, "Conan Doyle was pleased that his short story was so well done that it could be mistaken as a true accounting of events. 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."