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The Mystery of The Mary Celeste

The Mary Celeste was a merchant ship famous for having been discovered in the Atlantic Ocean on 4 December 1872, unmanned and apparently abandoned. On November 5, 1872, under command of Captain Briggs, the Mary Celeste took on board a cargo worth $35,000 and set sail from New York to Italy. In addition to Briggs and a crew of seven, she carried Briggs’ wife and young daughter. Both captain and crew were considered experienced, trustworthy and capable seamen.

A month after the Mary Celeste left port, the helmsman of the Dei Gratia, sighted a curious ship about five miles off their own port bow through his spyglass. He detected at once that there was something wrong with the other vessel: she was yawning slightly and her sails were torn. They cautiously observed the ship, which their captain recognised to be the Mary Celeste, noticing that she was sailing straight towards the Strait of Gibraltar, yet on an erratic starboard tack. They concluded she was drifting after seeing no one on deck, though the ship was flying no distress signal.

Upon boarding the Mary Celeste they found no sign of the crew and although they reported that ”the whole ship was a thoroughly wet mess,” it was still seaworthy. All of the ship’s papers were missing, except for the captain’s logbook. The ship’s clock was not functioning, and the compass was destroyed; the sextant and marine chronometer were missing. The only lifeboat was also missing. The peak halyard, used to hoist the main sail, had disappeared. A rope, perhaps the peak halyard, was found tied to the ship very strongly and the other end, very frayed, was trailing in the water behind the ship. A six-month supply of food and fresh water was still aboard, and the crew’s personal possessions and artifacts were left untouched, making a piracy raid seem extremely unlikely. It appeared the vessel had been abandoned in a hurry. There was no sign of a struggle, or any sort of violence. The crew was never seen or heard from again.

Theories range from alcoholic fumes, to underwater earthquakes, to waterspouts, to paranormal explanations involving extraterrestrial life, UFOs, sea monsters, and the Bermuda Triangle, although it is not thought to have sailed through the area. The ship was said to be “cursed” and had a long history of disasters and catastrophes, and three captains died on the ship. The ship was destroyed in 1885 when it was intentionally wrecked off the coast of Haiti in an attempted insurance fraud.

[Image Source: Smithsonian Magazine]





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