mary celeste

The Mary Celeste

The Mary Celeste became famous for being at the centre of one of the greatest mysteries in maritime history. On December 5th, 1872 the merchant brigantine was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean with no men on board. What was a mystery was that there had been no bad weather, but the British vessel was still found to be abandoned.

What compounded the mystery was that the crew on the Mary Celeste were seamen with a lot of experience behind them. That such skilled seamen should abandon a ship that was in good condition, and sailing in favourable conditions, stirred the imaginations of many, including the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

When found, the ship was on course for Gibraltar. There was no issue with lack of food or water, while the vessel’s cargo was still intact. The crew had also left their valuables behind after, apparently, making their exit from the ship via the only lifeboat available. However, nothing was ever found of the lifeboat, or the ten people who had sailed with her – eight crewmen and two passengers. The passengers were the wife of the ship’s captain and their two-year-old daughter.

There was wild speculation as to why she was abandoned, which ranged from underwater earthquakes to mutiny. Though the lack of any lifeboat or men makes any theory hard to prove. Conan Doyle gave his own theory on what happened to the ship, which was published in Cornhill Magazine in 1884. Though he did, to some extent, rely on factual information, he did embellish the story with some fiction also.

The crew of the Mary Celeste had been affected by misfortune before the incident in 1872, though it was still a relatively young ship, having being built in Canada in 1861. It was first called Amazon before it was renamed in 1868. Three captains died while onboard the vessel, which underlined the reputation she quickly built up for being an unlucky ship. She was, primarily, used as a cargo ship throughout her life.

This unfortunate ship came to an end in the way, which typified her eventful life. The last owner of the Mary Celeste saw the destruction of his ship as a way of making money through a spurious insurance claim. Consequently, he deliberately wrecked the vessel off the Haitian coast in 1885.

the mary celeste

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