The Mystery of the Mary Celeste



Mary CelesteThe Mary Celeste was launched in 1861 from the Yard of Joshua Dewis, Spencer Island, Nova Scotia as the AMAZON. She was 282grt and measured 103x16.9x16.2ft. In 1868 she came under the US flag as a Brig and renamed MARY CELESTE. She was purchased in 1869 by Captain J H Winchester and Others.

On the 7th November 1872 she sailed from New York bound for Genoa with a cargo of 1,701 barrels of crude alcohol. The Captain B S Briggs was accompanied by his wife and two year old daughter together with a crew of seven. On the 5th December 1872 the Nova Scotian brigantine DEI GRATIA sighted the MARY CELESTE about 590 mile west of Gibraltar. Captain Morehouse of the DEI GRATIA could see the other vessel was in distress and being unable to obtain any response to his hail he approached to within a few hundred yards and saw through his telescope that there was no helmsman and that the deck was unoccupied. He ordered his chief mate with two others to row across and investigate.

The MARY CELESTE was found to be in a perfectly seaworthy condition. Contrary to many subsequent stories her boat had gone and it was clear she had been abandoned in a hurry. The Captains chronometer, sextant, Navigation Books and most of the ship's papers were missing. The log book had been entered up to November 24th and the log slate showed that the last observation had been made at 8am on November 25th. There were no signs of violence and no half-eaten meals on the tables, both fictions which led to extravagant speculation. The fore-hatch had been removed probably to ventilate the cargo hold, a normal precaution with a cargo of crude alcohol.

Later, when the ship was unloaded in Genoa nine barrels were found to be empty having apparently leaked during the voyage. This may explain what happened. Fear of fire or explosion may have caused the captain to abandon the ship temporarily but with the worsening weather he and his companions were swept away and lost. Weather reports of November 25th support this theory.

The Mate and two seamen from the DEI GRATIA sailed the MARY CELESTE into Gibraltar and Captain Morehouse received a salvage reward of £1,700.

On January 3rd 1885 the MARY CELESTE under new ownership was wrecked on Roskell's Reef near Miragoane. Haiti on a clear day and in a calm sea. The reef was marked on charts and clearly visible. None of the crew of 7 were lost.


from Charles Hocking's Dictionary of Disasters at Sea



0 Comments · 23202 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on August 11 2007

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