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the Unexplained => Vanishings & Unsolved Murders => Topic started by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 08:58:09 pm

Title: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 08:58:09 pm

A 1861 painting of the Amazon (later renamed Mary Celeste) by an unknown artist.

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 08:59:01 pm
The Mary Celeste was a brigantine found in the Atlantic Ocean unmanned and under full sail heading towards the Strait of Gibraltar in 1872. The fate of the crew is the subject of much speculation; theories range from alcoholic fumes to underwater earthquakes, and a large body of fictional accounts of the story. The Mary Celeste is often described as the archetypal example of a ghost ship.

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 08:59:40 pm

The Mary Celeste was a 103-foot (31 metres), 282-ton brigantine. She was built in 1861 as the Amazon at Spencer's Island, Nova Scotia, the first large vessel built in this community.

The ship was thought by some to have had bad luck due to numerous misadventures. Her first captain died at the very beginning of her maiden voyage and she also collided with another vessel in the English Channel. However, after this rough beginning, the brigantine had several profitable and uneventful years under her Nova Scotian owners until she was driven ashore in a storm in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia in early 1869. She was salvaged and subsequently sold to American owners who made substantial changes and changed her name to Mary Celeste in 1869.

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:02:47 pm

An engraving of the Mary Celeste as she was found abandoned

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:03:48 pm
Fateful Voyage

On November 7, 1872, under the command of Captain Benjamin Briggs, the ship picked up a cargo of industrial alcohol shipped by Meissner Ackermann & Coin and set sail from Staten Island, New York to Genoa, Italy. In addition to the captain and a crew of seven, she carried two passengers, the captain's wife, Sarah E. Briggs (née Cobb), and two-year-old daughter, Sophia Matilda, making 10 people in all.

On December 4, 1872 (some reports give December 5, due to a lack of standard time zones in the 19th century), the Mary Celeste was sighted by the Dei Gratia, commanded by Captain David Reed Morehouse, who knew Captain Briggs. The Dei Gratia had left New York harbour only seven days after the Mary Celeste. Dei Gratia's crew observed her for two hours, under full sail and heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar. They concluded that she was drifting, though she was flying no distress signals.

Oliver Deveau, the chief mate of the Dei Gratia, led a party in a small boat to board the Mary Celeste. He found the ship in generally good condition, though he reported that "the whole ship was a thoroughly wet mess." There was only one operable pump, with a lot of water between decks and three-and-a-half feet of water in the hold. The forehatch and the lazarette were both open, the clock was not functioning and the compass was destroyed. The sextant and marine chronometer were missing, and the only lifeboat appeared to have been intentionally launched rather than torn away, suggesting the ship had been deliberately abandoned.

Stories of untouched breakfasts with cups of tea on the cabin table, washing hung out to dry and a cat found asleep on top of the gallery locker are totally without any substance.

The cargo of 1701 barrels of alcohol was intact, though when it was eventually unloaded in Genoa, nine barrels were found to be empty. A six-month supply of food and water was aboard. All of the ship's papers, except the captain's logbook, were missing. The last log entry was dated November 24 and placed her 100 miles west of the Azores. The last entry on the ship's slate showed her as having reached the island of Santa Maria in the Azores on November 25th.

Crewmen from the Dei Gratia sailed the Mary Celeste to Gibraltar where, during a hearing, the judge praised them for their courage and skill. However, admiralty court officer Frederick Solly Flood turned the hearings from a simple salvage claim into a de facto trial of the men of the Dei Gratia, whom Flood suspected of foul play. In the end, the court did award prize money to the crew, but the sum was much less than it should have been, as "punishment" for suspected, but unproved wrongdoing. Captain Morehouse was awarded one fifth of the ship and cargo

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:04:45 pm
Fate of the crew and passengers

None of the Mary Celeste's crew or passengers have been found. Their fate may never be known.

In early 1873, it was reported that two lifeboats grounded in Spain, one with a body and an American flag, the other containing five bodies. It has been alleged that these could have been the remains of the crew of the Mary Celeste. However, the bodies were apparently never identified.

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:05:51 pm
Fate of the ship

The recovered ship was used for 12 years by a variety of owners, before being loaded with boots and cat food by her last captain, who attempted to sink her, apparently to claim insurance money. The plan did not work as the ship refused to sink after having been run up on the Rochelois Reef in Haiti.

Claims were made of discovery of the remains of the ship on August 9, 2001, by an expedition headed by author Clive Cussler (representing the National Underwater and Marine Agency) and Canadian film producer John Davis (president of ECO-NOVA Productions of Canada), but a Canadian analysis appears to have discounted this claim. Scott St. George of the Geological Survey of Canada and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona analyzed samples recovered by NUMA and claimed to be from the Mary Celeste, and discovered that the wood was cut from trees still living at least a decade after the ship sank, as cited in the London Independent of Jan. 23, 2005.

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:06:32 pm

Dozens of theories have been proposed to explain the mystery, ranging from the mundane and plausible to the fantastic.

The most plausible theories are based on the barrels of alcohol. Briggs had never hauled such a dangerous cargo before and did not trust it. Nine leaking barrels would have caused a buildup of vapor in the hold. Historian Conrad Byers believed that Captain Briggs ordered the hold to be opened, resulting in a violent rush of fumes and then steam. Believing the ship was about to explode, Briggs ordered everyone into the lifeboat, in his haste, failing to properly secure the lifeboat to the ship with a strong towline. The wind picked up and blew the ship away from them. The occupants of the lifeboat either drowned or drifted out to sea to die of hunger, thirst and exposure.

A refinement of this theory was proposed in 2005 by German historian Eigel Wiese. At his suggestion, scientists at University College London created a crude construction of the ship's hold to test the theory of the alcohol vapor's ignition. Using butane as the fuel and paper cubes as the barrels, the hold was sealed and the vapor ignited. The force of the explosion blew the hold doors open and shook the scale model, which was about the size of a coffin. Ethanol burns at a relatively low temperature with a flash point of 13 °C or 55.4 °F. A minimal spark is needed, for example from two metal objects rubbing together. None of the paper cubes were damaged, nor even left with scorch marks. This theory may explain the remaining cargo found intact and the fracture on the ship's rail, possibly by one of the hold doors. This burning in the hold would have been violent and perhaps enough to scare the crew into lowering the boat, but the flames would not have been hot enough to have left burn marks. A frayed rope trailing in the water behind the boat is suggested to be evidence that the crew remained attached to the ship hoping that the emergency would pass. The ship was abandoned while under full sail and a storm was recorded shortly after. It is possible that the rope to the lifeboat parted because of the force from the ship under full sail. A small boat in a storm would not have fared as well as the Mary Celeste.

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:07:14 pm
Some people theorize that the alcohol was to blame, but for a different reason. They believe that the crew tried to break into the hold to drink the alcohol, murdered Captain Briggs in the process, and later stole a lifeboat.

Another theory has suggested there was a mutiny among the crew who murdered a tyrannical Briggs and his family, then escaped in the lifeboat. However, Briggs had no history to suggest he was the type of captain to provoke his crew to mutiny. First Mate Albert Richardson and the rest of the crew also had excellent reputations.

An alternate scenario has the ship encountering a waterspout, a tornado-like storm with a funnel cloud that occurs at sea. In such a case, it is suggested, the water surrounding the boat may, in being sucked upwards, have given the impression that the Mary Celeste was sinking. It would explain why the Mary Celeste was soaking wet when discovered by the crew of the Dei Gratia, and a mass panic amongst the crew during such an occasion would probably explain the scratched railing, and the broken compass found on the Mary Celeste, as well as the missing lifeboat. A further theory is that a seaquake panicked the crew into abandoning ship.

However, mariners generally agree that abandoning ship is an extreme measure.

Yet another theory supposes a case of ergotism derived from bread aboard the ship which could have led all its occupants to throw themselves overboard. However, the sailors from from the 'Dei Gratia' were not affected.

Brian Hicks and Stanley Spicer in recent books revived the entirely plausible theory that Captain Briggs opened the hold to ventilate it while becalmed. The release of noxious alcoholic fumes from the hold might have panicked the captain and crew into abandoning ship for the yawl, tied to the halyard by an inadequate rope. If this broke with a weather change and consequent wind it could easily have explained the sudden and mysterious exit from the ship.

One of the more popular theories at the time of the event was also that a sea monster or creature could have came on board and killed/taken the crew.

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:09:16 pm
Abel Fosdyk papers

More than 40 years after the Mary Celeste was found, papers and documents allegedly belonging to a deceased, well-educated man named Abel Fosdyk claimed that he had been a secret passenger on the ship. According to Fosdyk, one day, in response to a lighthearted dispute with a crew member about how well a man could swim with his clothes on, Captain Briggs and several crew members jumped overboard, while Briggs' wife and child, Fosdyk, and the rest of the crew stepped up onto a specially built deck for a better view of the fun. Suddenly, sharks began to attack the people in the water. The remaining members of the crew ran up onto the deck to better see what was happening, only to have it collapse, tossing them all into the sea. Fosdyk, who landed atop of the shattered piece of deck, was the only survivor. Unable to reach the ship, he floated for several days, finally washing ashore on the coast of Africa. Fearful of retribution due to the outlandish details of his story, he never revealed the incident to anyone. Fosdyk's story has never been proven, and several inconsistencies (one example being that Fosdyk describes the crew as English) suggest that it is a work of fiction.

Derelict ships were very common in the 19th century and not completely unknown in the 20th century (e.g. the SS San Demetrio) but the sensationalization by Solly Flood and then Arthur Conan Doyle created the Mary Celeste myth. In 1884, Conan Doyle published a story entitled "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", part of the book The Captain of the Polestar. Doyle's story drew very heavily on the original incident, but included a considerable amount of fiction and called the ship the Marie Céleste. Much of this story's fictional content, and the incorrect name, have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident, and were even published as fact by several newspapers. It was said that their tea was still warm and breakfast was cooking when the ship was discovered; these are fictional details from Doyle's story. In reality, the last entry in the ship's log was eleven days before the discovery of the empty ship.

Howard Pease's 1934 Tod Moran mystery, The Ship Without a Crew, was inspired by the story of the Mary Celeste.

The story was fictionalized in a now rare 1935 British film called The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (also known as Phantom Ship), which starred Bela Lugosi.

The December 27, 1955 broadcast of the radio program Suspense presented a fictionalized account of the disappearance where the crew abandoned ship when they became beached on a rare temporary sand bar from the outflows of an African river.

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:10:36 pm
The 1956 book, The Wreck of the Mary Deare, by Hammond Innes, drew inspiration from the Mary Celeste story.

Numerous episodes of the Star Trek series recycled the central Mary Celeste myth of an abandoned ship found with no crew aboard.

The Doctor Who serial The Chase (1965) suggested that the arrival of time-travelling Daleks caused the terrified crew of the ship to jump overboard.

In 1973, science fiction author Philip José Farmer penned a novel, The Other Log Of Phileas Fogg, in which he has two of Jules Verne’s most famous characters, Phileas Fogg and Captain Nemo square off against one another in a scene on board the Mary Celeste.

The 1970s British sci-fi serial Sapphire & Steel suggested in Adventure 1 that, in unseen events set prior to the story, interdimensional operatives were assigned to deal with a time break aboard the Mary Celeste (according to Sapphire, the trigger was an out-of-date ship's log – a nautical souvenir belonging to the captain) which would have caused the end of time itself. Steel had been forced to send the original ship and crew out of time (and presumably to their deaths) and although he left behind a replica of the ship, he unfortunately forgot to replicate the bodies...

The 1973 Thomas Pynchon novel, "Gravity's Rainbow," briefly mentions the ship--though as the Marie-Celeste--comparing it to the tunnels of Mittelwerke: "Though found adrift and haunted, full of signs of recent human tenancy, this is not the legendary ship Marie-Celeste--it isn't bounded so neatly . . ."

Stephen King's story The Langoliers, from Four Past Midnight, refers to the incident.

Al Stewart, in the song "Life in Dark Water" from the album Time Passages, refers to the vessel, perhaps to imply that another ship (a submarine) has been abandoned.

In the 1990 horror film remake of Night of the Living Dead, a plaque outside the front door of the farmhouse reads "M. Celeste." Director Tom Savini states on the DVD's commentary that this is a reference to the Mary Celeste. Further details include scenes of still smoldering cigarettes in ashtrays and food still cooking on the stoves, but the residents are missing.

An episode of the 1996 series The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest entitled “In the Wake of the Mary Celeste” deals with the ship as well.

The song "Sinking", from the 2000 Alabama 3 album La Peste, is about a ship that is stranded at sea after its captain dies of a drug overdose. In the song, the captain's dying words are: Beware, don't stare at the Mary Celeste, this quest of ours is cursed.

The title of Nurse With Wound's 2003 album Salt Marie Celeste is a reference to Mary Celeste.

In Roger Zelazny's short story "And I Only Am Escaped to Tell Thee", a seaman escapes from the accursed Flying Dutchman, only to be rescued by the Mary Celeste.

Dean Koontz wrote a book, Phantoms, that explained mass disappearances like the Mary Celeste. In the book, the ‘Ancient Enemy’ is blamed. It lives at the bottom of the ocean and feeds mostly on aquatic life, but every once in a while, it encounters a ship and eats all the passengers.

In Babylon 5 a transport ship named the Marie Celeste can be heard mentioned in background public announcements. Specifically, it is the ship that transports Thomas (aka Jinxo) off the station in the episode "Grail".

The Mary Celeste features in Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales by Hideyuki Kikuchi. D escapes from a dimensional prison, causing a tear in the time-space continuum. This causes many disappearances across history before it seals itself, the crew of the Mary Celeste being among them.

In the 2001 SciFi channel movie Lost Voyage Judd Nelson briefly recounts the tale of the Mary Celeste.

The 2002 movie Ghost Ship makes a lengthy and mostly inaccurate reference to the ship.

In Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, the narrator mentions the ship after hearing the story of Felix Hoenikker leaving his car in the middle of traffic on the way to work one morning.

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:12:49 pm

•   1861 - Amazon built
•   1869 - Amazon renamed Mary Celeste
•   1872 - Sets sail from New York City to Genoa, Italy on November 7th
•   1872 - Last entry in captain's logbook dated November 24th
•   1872 - Last entry on ship's slate dated November 25th
•   1872 - Ship found abandoned on December 4th
•   1885 - Ship wrecked on reef captained by Parker on January 3rd
•   2001 - Remains of wreck rediscovered in Haiti (disputed)

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:14:12 pm
Ship's manifest

The crew and passengers are listed in the ship's log as:


Name Status Nationality Age
Benjamin S. Briggs Captain American 37
Albert C Richardson Mate American 28
Andrew Gilling 2nd Mate Danish 25
Edward W Head Steward & Cook American 23
Volkert Lorenson Seaman German 29
Arian Martens Seaman German 35
Boy Lorenson Seaman German 23
Gottlieb Gondeschall Seaman German 23


Name Status Age
Sarah Elizabeth Briggs Captain's Wife 30
Sophia Matilda Briggs Daughter 2

Mary Celeste also had a ship's cat which also disappeared

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:16:41 pm

Captain Benjamin Briggs

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:18:22 pm

First mate Albert Richardson

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:19:28 pm

Sarah Briggs

Title: Re: Mary Celeste
Post by: Tiffany Rossette on August 14, 2007, 09:20:21 pm

Sophia Briggs