The story of the Mary Celeste ghost ship is a mystery that may never be solved. In 1872, it was found floating, without its crew, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The mystery of the Mary Celeste has baffled people for over 125 years and has become one of the great unsolved mysteries of maritime history. The fate of the crew and passengers has never been satisfactorily explained.
Back in November 1872, the Mary Celeste was sailing to Europe with a cargo of wine and liquor. Captain Benjamin Briggs was accompanied by his wife, his young daughter and a crew of seven men.
On December 4, 1872, the Mary Celeste was found, crewless but in perfect condition, floating 600 miles off Gibraltar. The only things missing were the ship’s paper, its chronometer and everyone on board. They had all completely and inexplicably vanished.
The condition of the Mary Celeste, at the time of her discovery at sea, varies according to the reporter. One report suggested that there were bloodied weapons on board and blood stains on some of the sail. If this is true it suggests a pirate attack, something that was common in the 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 controversy is whether or not the only lifeboat was still strapped to the ship when it was discovered.
Some other theories about what happened to the Mary Celeste include:
Theory 1: 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.
Theory 2: 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.
Theory 3: The captain of the Dei Gratia, the ship which found and salvaged the Mary Celeste, hatched a plot to take over the ship by placing three of his cutthroats 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.
Theory 4: Barrels of industrial-strength alcohol in the ship’s cargo broke open and the crew abandoned ship to avoid the fumes. They sailed in a lifeboat behind the ship, but bad weather caused the line to break and stranded the survivors in the middle of the ocean as their ship sailed away without them.
What happened to the Mary Celeste? What was the fate of Captain Briggs and his family, and the crew of the Mary Celeste? We’ll never know.