The Mary Celeste

The Bermuda Triangle

The Mary Celeste

The Mary Celeste is a ship, which has been accounted for as being one of the great maritime mysteries.

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.

The mystery

The finding of Mary Celeste

On December 4, 1872 (over 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 adequately explained. It 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 it's chronometer were missing. The last entry into the captain's logs, on November 24, gave no indication of anything untoward happening or about to happen.

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? Another area of conflicting observation is whether or not the only lifeboat was still strapped to the ship.

The theories

Some theories put forward over the years concerning the Mary Celeste have included:

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.

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... nobody knows?